Moravec’s Paradox means managers may lose their jobs

jpmorgan building

One of the many interesting discoveries scientists and researchers made about artificial intelligence is called “Moravec’s Paradox”. 

Basically it means that, while people might imagine that AI and automation will mainly replace manual labour which is not intellectually demanding, the reality is that the opposite is true: AI and automation, especially in computing, is much more suited to intellectually demanding tasks.

After all, a computer is just a calculator with a lot of power and functionality.

This means that computers could have replaced a lot of accountants, financial advisers, lawyers and even doctors, as well as other jobs of what might be called the “professional” categories much earlier than they replaced manual labour work from factories.

Why they did not do this is an interesting political and socio-economic question.

The computer programmers had to go through monumental mathematical contortions to enable industrial robotic arms to do the work to replace virtually all manual workers.

Those same programmers could’ve probably written code that performs the functions of “professional” jobs much more easily and much faster. In doing so, the programmers may have saved businesses a lot more money because an average lawyer probably used to get the same amount of money as several manual workers in a factory a few decades ago when robots were first being employed in factories in large numbers.

And those who consider themselves to be in “creative” jobs – such as designers and writers – may not fare much better either now as the AI and automation trend gathers momentum.

Huge aspects of what used to be considered “design” is now automated – anyone who’s used WordPress knows how easy it is to install a new design, or “theme” as it’s called, to a website.

In an interesting article on Quartz, a software program called Orchestra is described as co-ordinating or managing teams comprising designers and writers.

As Quartz puts it, “Orchestra conducts a swarm of workers, most of whom are freelancers, and other ‘robots’ to complete projects.”

This “swarm” can include designers, writers and even project managers, any of whom can themselves be replaced by robots.

Orchestra apparently creates chat groups and adds in the relevant people and constructs a hierarchy of workers, and can evaluate and provide feedback for work.

After you’ve finished feeling slightly awestruck by such powerful software, you might wonder what its implications are.

It’s almost certain that this sort of automation, or AI, or co-ordination, or whatever you want to call it, is going to become much more widespread.

What this means for the “professional” and “creative” human managers might seem clear to some.

Quartz mentions that business consultancy McKinsey did a study which found that 25 per cent of a CEO’s current job could be automated, and 35 per cent of management tasks could be automated.

You may have noticed that there have been big job losses recently at Infosys and Microsoft because of automation.

And JPMorgan, one of the world’s biggest investment banks, yesterday announced it would use a piece of software called LOXM to trade in global equities, according to a report on the Financial Times website.

The FT quoted David Fellah, David Fellah, of JPMorgan’s European equity quant research team, as saying the work LOXM will do was previously done by humans, “but now the AI machine is able to do it on a much larger and more efficient scale”.