AI “agents” are in training to handle a broad spectrum of tasks, with a primary focus on guaranteeing their security.
A recent initiative introduced by Caltech researchers vividly illustrates the transformation of A.I. chatbots into autonomous systems. Notably, these autonomous A.I. systems are referred to as “agents.” In contrast to chatbots, which are primarily skilled at engaging in conversations with users, these agents possess a wide range of capabilities.
According to the researchers, these “LLM-powered embodied lifelong learning” agents don’t merely engage in chat interactions; they actively explore the world, acquire a diverse set of skills, and specialize in making groundbreaking discoveries.
The researchers also mention that all of these tasks can be performed “autonomously,” without the need for human involvement. While chatbots are often one-dimensional and have restricted abilities, agents are their complete opposite.
According to a recent report in The New York Times, it’s plausible that these agents will undergo substantial advancements in sophistication in the near future.
According to the report, it is suggested that A.I. agents have the potential to “automate nearly every job in the white-collar sector,” essentially eliminating the concept of human agency. Interestingly, the report specifically cautions white-collar workers to be concerned, leaving us to ponder which, if any, blue-collar professions will remain unaffected.
In contrast to white-collar workers who predominantly work in office settings, blue-collar labor encompasses both skilled and unskilled work. The latter category consists of jobs that don’t require specialized training or expertise, including positions like cleaners, parking attendants, cashiers, and fast-food workers. The former category comprises individuals with distinct and honed skills, such as plumbers, carpenters, and electricians.
Currently, unskilled labor is already being replaced by technology. Robots can now be found flipping burgers in fast-food establishments, self-checkout systems are commonplace in supermarkets, and parking meter attendants are gradually disappearing from the workforce.
However, skilled labor and tradespeople have not yet been replaced by robots, and some argue that they may never be replaced. This is partly because skilled workers like electricians and carpenters rely on finely tuned motor skills that are challenging for machines to replicate.
Joop Schippers, a Dutch academic specializing in the future of work, emphasizes the need for perspective when discussing the rise of A.I. in the workplace. He points out that the jobs already replaced by computers tend to have repetitive, routine elements (as seen in the car manufacturing industry) or involve straightforward administrative tasks (such as teller positions in banks or cashier roles in supermarkets).
Schippers predicts that the next roles to be automated could include train and subway drivers. He explains that these jobs often lack substantial human judgment, making them “easy” to automate with systems that can monitor signals and stop at the appropriate locations when there is minimal interference with other traffic.
Regarding individuals in skilled trades, Schippers is of the belief that they are “fairly secure.” Nonetheless, he underscores the importance of anticipating the influence of A.I. and robots on their professions.
How will this manifest? While skilled trades won’t disappear, Schippers envisions an evolution in the nature of their work. Take, for instance, a carpenter or bricklayer. Presently, a significant portion of their work is conducted at the construction site, where a mason assembles bricks to create a wall. However, in the future, a substantial portion of this labor might shift to factories where machines assemble entire walls. These pre-fabricated walls would then be transported to the construction site, altering the role of the mason.
A similar transformation is predicted for tasks like installing window frames, which nowadays arrive as complete units and are simply positioned within pre-existing walls by carpenters.
Schippers further illustrates the changing landscape by citing the example of a modern-day mechanic. He points out that today, mechanics often begin by connecting a car to a laptop for diagnostics, a practice already common for conventional vehicles and even more so for electric cars. Once again, the occupation remains, but the tasks within it evolve, emphasizing the importance of acquiring the necessary skills to remain successful in these roles.
This prompts another question: How should today’s youth and tomorrow’s adults prepare themselves for the impending A.I. revolution?
Schippers emphasizes that “youth should be ready to adapt,” underscoring the significance of both skills and a proactive attitude. He asserts that the A.I. revolution will elevate the importance of continuous learning, extending its relevance not only to younger generations but to all individuals who wish to stay pertinent in this constantly evolving landscape.
Prepare for the arrival of the agents.
By JOHN MAC GHLIONN