The REAL AI automation threat to workers

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June Zaccone

Jan 15, 2024, 11:33:44 AMJan 15
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Pluralistic: The REAL AI automation threat to workers (11 Jan 2024) Cory Doctorow Posted on January 11, 2024

Long before the current wave of AI hype, we were being groomed for automation panics with misleading stories. Remember this one? "'Truck driver' is the most common job in America. Self-driving trucks are just around the corner. How can we prevent America's army of truckers from turning into a howling mob when the robots steal their jobs?
More than $100b has been set on fire chasing the robotaxi dream, and the result is most charitably described as a technological curiosity, requiring 1.5 high-waged remote technicians to replace each low-waged driver:

Writing in The Guardian, Steven Greenhouse describes the AI-enabled workplace, where precarious, often misclassified workers are monitored, judged, and fined by algorithms:

Whether it's the robot that gets you disciplined for sending an email with the word "union" in it or the robot that takes money out of your paycheck if you take a bathroom break, AI has come for the workplace with a vengeance.

Here's a supreme irony: nearly all of the beneficial applications for AI require that AI be used to help workers, not replace them, which is absolutely not how AI is used in the workplace. An AI that helps radiologists by giving them a second opinion might help them find tumors on x-rays, but that's a tool that reduces the number of scans a radiologist processes in a shift, by making them go back and reconsider the scans they've already processed:

But AI's sales pitch is not "Buy an AI tool and increase your costs while increasing your accuracy." The pitch for AI is "buy and AI and save money by firing workers." Given how bad AIs are at replacing humans, this is a bad deal all around, both for the worker who loses their job and the customer who gets the substandard product the AI makes.

There is a very limited slice of applications where an AI could make a lot of money for a company that deploys it, without costing that company anything when the AI screws up.....

June Zaccone
National Jobs for All Network
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