Are AI Algorithms a threat to the Gig Economy?

AI algorithms have changed the world. Nowadays, it’s hard to see the relationship between AI and Freelancing or what we call the Gig Economy.

The power of AI algorithms are massive and should not be taken lightly.
Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

People have repeated this phrase so much in recent weeks that we would forgive one for thinking it was a new phenomenon. But, the truth is that the gig economy has been around for a while and so are AI Algorithms. Although the term “gig economy” originated in 2005, people have always been using freelancing websites and other online platforms to find work since the dawn of the Internet.

The relationship between AI and Humans

The worrying thing about an AI Algorithm is not about its potential replacement for humans but rather some of its more subtle aspects. One particular area of concern is how an AI may be able to match human competency and efficiency over time. This could eventually lead to job losses as companies focus on automating tasks instead of hiring humans to do them.

An AI could also be able to manipulate, trick, and mislead humans into thinking that it has no bias or discrimination. However, in reality, it is. I thought of an example while reading an article on the gig economy that has missed a fundamental point. Algorithms have no reason to be unbiased or discriminating. They act in this way because AI experts programmed them to do so.

What is an algorithm bias? 

Before going any further, it’s worth taking a brief look at what algorithmic bias means. The truth is that algorithms are simply computers doing operations and calculations based on codes and input data. In the sense of law, an algorithm is a set of instructions or steps users follow to accomplish a task. For example, when you use Google, you are really using an algorithm to tell you where to go and what results to expect. The same applies when your employer scans your work before assigning it to another employee.

Algorithms and human have many things in common.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In contrast, humans are social animals and their decisions are not just guided by algorithms but also by other factors. The latter include personal preference and many other variables. Some experts might program Algorithms with very specific biases. They could then achieve the same discriminatory results as humans if they were programmed in this way. For example, an algorithm programmed to discriminate against women could result in a disproportionately low number of female candidates. Thus, males will be hired over their female counterparts. During the hiring process, this could happen.

The Algorithmic Discrimination and Gig Economy 

Now let’s look at how this kind of algorithmic discrimination may play out in the gig economy. If we’re, to be honest with ourselves, many companies already use algorithms. They used them to decide which applicants they should interview or whether they should offer them a job.

These algorithms include things like “user behavior on our website” or “how you apply for jobs in this job title”. However, the ethical implications are clear when the performing machines become aware that they are being discriminatory and act on those impressions.

If AIs are able to replace humans, the question of how they are going to be managed is also important. If people lose their jobs because AI Algorithms are cheaper and more efficient than them, then it’s only fair that those people should receive some form of compensation for their job losses. Ultimately, it’s in the interest of society as a whole not to forget about the social repercussions of AI on society and if possible find solutions that could benefit both parties. 

The future of AI Algorithms

Nobody knows what the future will look like, but one thing is certain: We should be building societies and economies that allow everyone to achieve their maximum potential while also ensuring a more equitable distribution of our collective wealth.

To be fair we should acknowledge that not all AI is problematic or dangerous while some are benign and helpful. AI Algorithms would never deliberately harm anyone or make unethically biased decisions, nor would they discriminate on behalf of themselves or others to advance their own interests at the expense of others.

The AI Algorithms are used in many fields.
Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

The problem with some of the current algorithms is that they can be biased and unfair without being discriminatory or illegal. A typical example of this could be Google’s new advertising program. It relies on an algorithm to assign ads to individuals based on search terms. Although it is not legally discriminatory, it could still lead to advertising materials that are irrelevant or offensive and it is difficult for individuals to challenge this kind of “soft” discrimination.

We must consider what would happen if the power of an AI Algorithm was put at the disposal of a private organization or individual. This, of course, is applicable without having a mechanism in place to ensure that their use and application was ethical, responsible, and accountable.

The negative sides of AI Algorithms on the Gig Economy

Nonetheless, Artificial Intelligence has been a dream for decades. It was only a matter of time before people would finally start trying to make it into reality. AI Algorithms are something that robots may have without the limitations of humans — they don’t need breaks, they don’t get bored, and they never seem to slow down as humans do.

They could bring down entire industries with their speed. They can achieve complex tasks with simple lines of code. This implies that any one person could become irrelevant in their field as soon as someone creates a robot. The latter can take over their job just as well or better than them at half the cost or less. This would mean the loss of jobs for people. As a result, this could cause problems with the economy and leave many people without a job.

Likewise, this would in turn mean that the cost of goods and services would rise. In other words, people are in need of money to survive. If this continues, it could result in an economy where the few rich rent their robots out to earn money while everyone else starves. This would have the potential to destroy society if something isn’t done. There are a few options that might work to fix this problem. 

The positive sides of AI Algorithms on the Gig Economy 

The first one that comes to my mind is Universal Basic Income (UBI). This idea is not entirely new. But, it is an idea that has been gaining support over recent years as its potential benefits become evident. Everyone will be guaranteed a basic income on which they can live. Thus, there is an assurance that everyone can afford food and shelter without working.

This would also allow everyone to spend more time on leisure activities and on the job market. This will make them more appealing to employers, and increase their chances of finding work. Also, this would help bring down the cost of goods and services again. Life will be easier for everyone, so it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle.

Many people fear that this will cause laziness and misuse of funds. Nonetheless, if we are going to implement a social system giving free money to people, then we have to trust them. As long as there is an incentive for people not to misuse the funds there shouldn’t be any problem at all with it. This would also mean that there are people available to work in the job market. This would increase the number of jobs available. Either way, people are going to have to find a solution to the problem of AI Algorithms soon.

Final Thoughts

The only option I can see is for everyone to accept their fate and give up on all hope for the future. I suppose that this isn’t an entirely bad idea. Since it would be a peaceful way out, in my opinion, everyone can be at peace with it. Because what’s done is done, and there is no changing it now.

But if we do something about AI Algorithms today then maybe humanity can survive tomorrow. So I say to all of you, let’s make a change for the better.
If everyone adopts the idea of UBI then we can all live in peace and prosperity. So please, pass this article around as much as you can for everyone’s sake.

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