Whose jobs will be taken by computers?

Many people don't realize where computer science is going.

Several months ago I watched a video on YouTube that some guy with a PHD in music made where he discussed the idea of computer generated music. He knew that "artificial intelligence" has advanced to the point where it could be fed a bunch of information and eventually be able to spit out something similar to what it was given. Despite this knowledge this guy decided that something like the stuff Bach wrote would be too complex for a computer to ever handle and that even if one did it could still not be considered music because it would have lacked some sort of human element to it, it would have had no soul or meaning. As someone with an understanding of computer software and the progression of computing technology, I can say that this guy is wrong.

Firstly, this guy is forgetting the natural desire humans seem to have to find meaning in everything, especially music, next year will be the 45th anniversary of the release of the Eagles' song Hotel California and even after that long people still like to find new meanings in it there are probably hundreds of essays about that song alone by high-school and college students written every year. I'm sure if a computer spat out some Bach clone it would not be too long before some pot smoking grad student pursuing a masters in music would find some sort of meaning in it. Remember constellations, we are a species that looks for meaning in places where there exists none.

But more importantly, this guy has completely disregarded the inevitable advancement of the technology he was talking about. Does there exist right now a program that could compose a piece of music that is similar to a Bach piece? Not that I'm aware of. Could there exist such a software within the next ten years? I'm certain that there probably will be. But heck, you wouldn't even need Bach to impress most people, just about every popular song from the last several years sound the same, writing a program to generate one of those 4-chord songs would be trivial.

Several months ago I was actually looking into the topic of AI generated music (that's actually why I watched the video made by that pretentious musician) and I found that some people are doing it. A few of the music creation softwares actually ship with some sort of mode where they will play random things that sound decent, but those are not the interesting ones, they don't have potential. There was one kid I found on YouTube who decided to make a video about a project he did in a machine learning class he was taking. This kid managed to come up with something that worked. Would any of the songs his program wrote be worth going to a concert to listen to? No. Was everything that his program spat out perfect? No, but this is true of humans as well. Does this sort of project have the potential to take away the jobs of musicians? Yes, you won't be watching any movies with scores generated by a computer anytime soon, but this kid's project is already producing songs good enough to be used in certain styles of video games. This kid is sitting on a million dollar piece of software and he probably doesn't even realize it. If I were him I'd be contacting every independent video game studio I could find and be trying to get them to pay me to have the software write their music.

This brings us to the fact that most people don't have any clue whose jobs computers will be taking. Everyone can look at current trends and see that cashiers, warehouse workers, and fast food cooks are slowly being replaced, but not many people are able to see beyond that. Lawyers are probably safe from having their jobs taken but doctors aren't. I'm having trouble finding the source but a few years ago some doctors and programmers gave a program several images of mammograms and it was told which belonged to women with breast cancer and which didn't. After several hours the program found twelve signs that a woman could have breast cancer and all of these signs were correct, except at the time the medical field had only discovered eight of these. The computer outperformed several years of research from the medical field in a matter of hours. Today AI is becoming a vital tool in breast cancer detection.

Science fiction has conditioned us to think that robots will be taking peoples' jobs and while robots and other machines are replacing human workers on factory floors we will probably never see any robot plumbers, or carpenters, or auto mechanics (unless they exclusively work on Teslas or something). We are getting to the point where jobs are going to be taken from people by computers that are siting in data centers that most people will never see. And a lot of the work that these computers will be doing isn't even that hard. Right now there is some poor soul at BuzzFeed in way more debt than they should be renting a small apartment and getting paid $50,000 a year to write quizzes with titles like, "Spend a day outdoors and we'll tell you what color hydro flask you are". Writing a program to automate the generation of pointless quizzes like that would be easy, how long do you think BuzzFeed will keep paying people to make those things once they realize that?

If you have a job where your primary responsibility is pattern recognition, like diagnosing diseases; or pattern repetition, like making content that fills some template (like writing music, making dumb quizzes on the internet, or managing a social media account) then your job is in danger of being taken by computers. Invest in yourself by gaining skills that a computer can't easily replicate. Learn to do the things that a computer can't.