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AI experts predict 39% of household chores could be automated in a decade

Of course, bringing AI into our lives and homes comes with the same risks as any technology — and others we may not have anticipated.

(CN) — A decent chunk of domestic chores could become automated within the next decade, artificial intelligence experts predict — though some tasks will be helped more than others.

Professors Ekaterina Hertog of the University of Oxford and Nobuko Nagase of Ochanomizu University interviewed a panel of 65 AI experts from the United Kingdom and Japan, who estimated the susceptibility of 17 different domestic tasks to automation. The researchers published their findings Wednesday in PLOS ONE

Automation could save 59% of the time spent on grocery shopping as in recent years "we have seen companies experimenting with a variety of subscriptions, where a given item arrives every week or every month to restock household supplies,” Hertog said in an email interview. Hertog noted companies such as Amazon are developing “anticipatory shipping” algorithms to predict what a person or household would like to buy, or what to return if the prediction is wrong.

However, while automation could assist with most of our grocery shopping, the researchers estimated it will only handle 21% of the time spent on physical child care. Hertog believes this is because machines cannot easily rival social interaction provided by caregivers, and that child care involves "performing very intimate physical tasks often with very young children like cleaning or bathing a baby. One could speculate that experts would imagine that standards of safety in having machines involved in performing such tasks would need to be very, very high and much harder to achieve compared to, say, cleaning a floor," Hertog said.

As for the confidence in automating domestic work itself, the researchers said 42% of U.K. experts predicted automation might replace more domestic labor whereas only 36% of Japanese experts said the same. Hertog hypothesized the difference stems from U.K. experts predicting a greater demand for domestic automation than their Japanese counterparts.

Meanwhile, the study says that U.K. male experts and Japanese female experts leaned toward an optimistic view of domestic automation. For the latter, Hertog theorized that “this is due to the fact that in Japan domestic work is shared very unequally between men and women and on average women take care of 90% of all domestic work. As a result, it is possible that Japanese male experts have very limited direct experience with domestic work and potentially believe that there is less need for domestic automation compared to Japanese female experts and U.K. experts.”

And while the researchers contextualized their experts’ backgrounds to explain their findings, they noted the study sample cannot generalize the findings of all AI experts, so they hope future studies based on theirs will expand and diversify their samples. Additionally, Hertog hopes future studies will pay attention to the implications of domestic automation, as it could reduce the time spent on these tasks and lead to gender equality while also carrying “dark consequences.”

“These could include potential privacy risks, as digital technologies collect information about household members, amplification of existing power inequalities within households,” Hertog wrote, nothing abusive partners could use the technology to terrorize the other partner.

Hertog added that without regulation or awareness of the risks, if “domestic technologies carry a substantial price tag when they hit the market, they could exacerbate existing 'available time' inequalities between rich and poor. Finally, if technologies take over the more social and interactive types of domestic work, such as care work, this may transform family relations and not necessarily in good ways.”

Categories:Science, Technology

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