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Opinion - Understanding the negative effects of AI on workers 

2020-09-16  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Understanding the negative effects of AI on workers 

Towards the end of last year, Namibia has experienced a change of wind in the political arena with many young people backing an independent political candidate who felt that the government was to be blamed for the high rate of unemployment among the youth, especially in towns such as Windhoek and Walvis Bay.
The issue of workers especially the fishermen in Walvis Bay became the headline of every newspaper last year and the same politicians used this opportunity to punish the Swapo government where the electorate of Walvis Bay chose to vote for an independent candidate instead of the Swapo Party.
I have observed this issue of job losses especially in Walvis Bay with interest because the issue is been politicised instead of looking at the main cause, which I attribute to many companies opting to use artificial intelligence (machines) instead of human labour

Understanding the effects of artificial intelligence (AI) among workers especially in the fishing industry is very important to the success of the human existences.
I have been working in the fishing industry from 1994 to 2005 working first as a fisherman, quality controller and a retort operator before I left the industry.
In 1994, when I arrived in Walvis Bay I got work in a small boat where we were catching snoek fish using lines and everything was basically manual this means the boat needed a lot of people to catch a lot of fish, then in 1995, I started to work for Etosha fisheries in a fish canning processing plant, I started as a quality controller where I was inspecting the condition of the vessels before they go to sea and by that time most of the work on board the vessels were done by hands.
In 1997, I started to work as a retort operator responsible for the sterilisation (cooking fish) for canning but the most interesting thing about this process is that before 1995, there were many companies in Walvis Bay that were canning pilchards such as UFE, Gendev and Etosha fisheries etc. When the cooking process was still done manually, this department alone could need around 150 strongmen who are able to load hot cans into baskets then push them into big pots called retorts.

But as machines begin to replace the workers in the name of cutting operational cost, Etosha fisheries installed one of the most advanced states of the art computerised sterilisation system that can be operated by only one person, this means there is no need for the 149 workers because everything is done by machines.

In the mid-1990s, we saw the arrival of big advanced Russian fishing vessels into the Namibian waters, these vessels are equipped with modern technology that replaced a big number of workers and all they needed is a few technicians from their own country that can operate these machines which in many cases instruction manuals are written in Russian and every time there is a new improvement on a certain machine, that means one employee is no more needed
I can guarantee you 10 years from now they will be more loss of workforce due to the artificial intelligence if you travel to many western countries you will hardly see a petrol attendant because they were replaced by artificial machines.

I have already seen a video camera that can do the visual and audio editing by itself, this means no need for an audio and visual editor even the newspaper vendors will soon be without jobs because people will choose to read online instead of buying the newspaper in the street    
Therefore, before we start to politicise and blame government failure to protect the welfare of the Namibian workers, let us look into the negative effect of artificial intelligence where most companies are opting to acquire machines to replace human labour.

 It’s high time that the young people start to think very serious on how to drive the country to a prosperous economy in line with the changing world, which I feel should start from our school curriculum where student are prepared very well because very soon machines will do almost everything that used to be done by humans that’s what we call artificial intelligence and once machines take over there will be a very high rate of unemployment, especially among the youth in Namibia because the students will be graduating with courses which will be of no use to the job market, employers will be needing technicians to maintain the machines.

I, therefore, urge all young people to really think of the effect of artificial intelligence on our future existence because just imagine if all the work is done by machines what are we going to do to get an income to survive? 

2020-09-16  Staff Reporter

Tags: Khomas
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