If you have seen the latest Wolverine movie, Logan, you might have noticed a crucial scene where automated trucks speed up and down the highways of the United States.
Far-fetched? Well, not really.
Experts say artificial intelligence (AI) is coming sooner than you think and robotics will soon replace the work now being done by humans.
And they will not just replace truck drivers — think taxis, trains and even your local salad maker.
In Australia, the jobs most at risk include those involving driving, according to Toby Walsh, professor of artificial intelligence at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the CSIRO’s technology unit, Data61.
“There’s a real financial imperative for developing autonomous cars,” Mr Walsh said, adding the industry was currently worth around $1 trillion.
“One thousand people will die on the roads in Australia in the next year, and more than 95 per cent of those accidents are caused by driver errors. So the quicker we can get the human [factor] out of the loop — the person making those mistakes — the better, because our road deaths will plummet.
“There is an AI arms race between major car companies to perfect autonomous cars, from old guards like General Motors to newer players like Tesla.”
40pc of Australian jobs ‘will be automated by 2025’
Cars already have the ability to drive on autopilot on highways, but Mr Walsh said he believed complete autonomy would be achieved within the next few years, about 2020.
Annual worldwide revenue from AI is projected to hit $37 billion by 2025.
In 2014, in a speech at MIT, entrepreneur Elon Musk called AI probably humanity’s “biggest existential threat”.
According to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), 40 per cent of Australian jobs will be automated by 2025, with that number even higher for rural jobs at 60 per cent.
AI can enable farming to be automated, with technology enabling machinery, for example, to determine where to plant and when to irrigate.
Atul Narang, chief information officer at financial technology company HashChing, which uses AI in its online brokering product, said:
“There will be some job losses, which is a big concern from the ethical point of view for a lot of people, but that loss can be covered so those people can then be trained. It will actually be a change in the nature of jobs.”
Already the process of automation is being felt.
Silicon Valley company Chowbotics recently unveiled a salad-making robot called Sally, which it said could make salads quicker and more calibrated to calorie needs than a human could.
— chowbotics (@chowbotics) April 11, 2017
Sally costs about $30,000 and is aimed at businesses and supermarkets, with a smaller household version in the works.
The market for food-service robots is already worth billions of dollars, according to Bloomberg, and in the future, could potentially replace cooks and kitchen hands.
People to have more time for creative pursuits
Over the next 10 or so years, Mr Walsh said some tasks undertaken by stockbrokers, lawyers, and even radiologists could be replaced.
In some cases, machines can already read X-rays with greater precision and accuracy than doctors can, he said.
But creative industries would be safer, with anticipation that, as robots take over more menial jobs, people will have more time for creative pursuits like art, novels and music.
As machine learning — the ability for computers to learn without being programmed — becomes even more sophisticated, Mr Walsh is hopeful that will mean the quality of life for everyone improves.
“We could give first-world health care to a third world, we could put that sort of technology on an app, on a smart phone, and provide it to everyone. People are dying needlessly for diseases we know how to fix every day,” he said.