There are some pundits proclaiming the eternal life of “pink collar” jobs in the service and hospitality industry. They are in vogue because that’s where the majority of the job growth has come from, they are easy to create and give people a way to scratch out a living doing rote work. This has lead to the false assumption that the majority of these jobs are irreplaceable by computers and robotics.
One of the prime candidates is nursing, which requires more education and training than most of the other service jobs. Amusingly enough, in an age when people are talking about replacing doctors who have decades of experience in general practice with narrow AI on cellphones and teleconferencing, people believe nurses and other “pink collar” jobs are immune. With the exception of NICU, CCU and other specialist nurses, most of the work that they do can be replaced or augmented by current technology as is, with a much smaller margin of error. Things like delivering medication at specific times, giving a patient ice water, moving patients to avoid bed sores, ensuring that a patient is not given food that is against his diet requirements (e.g. diabetics) and checking to see if a patient is faking a seizure to get attention.
Eliminating this frees up time, and would likely lead to staffing cuts. Even the software that nurses use for giving reports can be vastly improved, though you would have to use programmers who are actually competent. Current software requires hours of training because of the unintuitive design.
The other part of the argument is that human interaction cannot be replicated by machines, and therefore people will always want other humans to help them. This misses the point entirely, the people don’t care about the nurse, they care about how she serves them. When something comes along that can serve them in basic ways dramatically better, the nurse will be put out of work. If people were fooled by Eliza, they won’t mind expressing themselves to modern chatbots, mainly because they just want to express their feelings.
Pundits are still talking as if farming won’t be automated for 40 years, when we are already deploying self driving tractors and UAV’s for crop dusting. And more than likely, the crop that the farmer is harvesting is a GMO.
Nevada, California and Florida have already legalized self driving cars. We’ve developed simple plug-ins that stop you from browsing blocked sites after a set amount of time. The first of many pre-commitment devices that monitor, force and shame you into whatever you or society wants you to be:
If you agree—and only if you agree—Progressive Insurance will give you a device to install in your car that will rat you out for jack-rabbit starts and slamming on the brakes. * It’s a small thing that plugs into your on-board diagnostic system, and it transmits as you drive. If your little minder shows that you don’t act like Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel, you’ll save up to 30 percent on your auto insurance. Although there’s no official penalty for letting the company find out that you regularly lay down rubber, in fact you’ll pay more for coverage than will tamer drivers. You’ll also be acting to tame your own behavior by raising the price of recklessness.
Progressive’s driving spy is a sneaky example of the “precommitment device,” a technique that people use to bind themselves to their preferred desires, and a subject I have been studying for my new book about the problem of self-control,We Have Met the Enemy.
It’s too taboo to mention how quickly things are changing, optimism is alright just as long as you aren’t too specific. Complexity is now used as an excuse for not dealing with simple but emotionally difficult problems.
You’re in the future, start acting like it.