Amazon and the cost of artificial intelligence

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FILE – In this March 4, 2018 file photo, Jeff Bezos and wife MacKenzie Bezos arrive at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif. The founder of Amazon and his wife have made their largest political donation to date, giving $10 million to With Honor, a nonpartisan political-action committee devoted to helping military veterans running for Congress. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

The use of artificial intelligence is being adopted today by businesses at an astonishing rate due to its’ reliability and effectiveness. From assembly-line workers to factory workers and taxi drivers to cashiers, AI has upended the workforce of a plethora of companies in recent years.

Amazon is one of several of today’s most well known companies that uses AI to its’ advantage. Founder and chairman of Amazon, Jeff Bezos has made his company into an AI powerhouse with robots automating every other task. Bezos’ use of AI has pushed Amazon to one of the richest and most successful businesses in the Silicon Valley today, but at what cost?

According to the President of the British Science Association, the future of AI is now more dangerous than climate change or terrorism. Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of physics and public engagement at the University of Surrey, states that the evolution of AI is “happening too fast”. Without proper regulation on the use of AI, the technology will continue to pose an increasingly adverse threat to the job market.

According to a 2017 report by PwC, artificial intelligence is expected to pose a risk to 38 percent of U.S. jobs over the next 15 years. With its’ ability to do the same tasks as humans but faster, better and at a lower cost, it’s no surprise that companies like Amazon are looking to profit off the advances of AI.

Six years ago, when Amazon purchased Kiva Systems, a company that manufactures mobile robot fulfillment systems, Bezos’ began Amazon’s relentless AI endeavor.

A little over a year we watched Amazon purchase Whole Foods, taking a risk in retail markets. Soon enough the company was turning retail markets upside down with the new invention of Amazon Go, a cashier-less convenience store. Amazon Go stores have removed all cashiers and replaced them with an app, cameras around the store, and the ability to track what a customer picks up at the store. Seattle, Washington is now home to three Amazon Go’s and its headquarters.

Although the development of this technology will replace low-wage, low-skill jobs with high-wage, high-skill jobs, it leaves behind workers who lack the skills to work with AI. Additionally, the technological advances in retail oriented markets will disproportionately affect women and people of color.

Now Amazon is taking a risk in upending mail delivery companies, such as FedEx and the United Parcel Service, with their Delivery Service Partners. About 20,000 something vans have been ordered from Mercedes-Benz to be run by small delivery businesses operating through Amazon. The goal of Delivery Service Partners is to provide a network of delivery providers that take care of the “last-mile” of delivery for Amazon consumers. More time will be needed to fully decipher how this latest technological advancement will affect mail delivery services; but if the numerous amounts of Amazon packages shipped daily now have their own “last-mile” delivery carrier then it is highly likely that less workers will be needed for traditional mail carriers.


Emma DeGrandi is a contributor to The Daily Campus opinion section. She can be reached via email at emma.degrandi@uconn.edu.
 

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