News

Are robots really taking our jobs? Why AI is an opportunity, not a threat

The headlines we are reading tell us that robots are taking our jobs. A theory of glass ‘half-empty’ rather than ‘half-full”?

However, my thoughts are that artificial intelligence (AI) will in fact develop more jobs than it takes away. Having been to several industry networking events such as Human at Work the topic of ‘automation impact’ was discussed by the group and focussed on a net ‘loss’ on jobs rather than ‘displacement or new’ creation of jobs.

My view is that as job types change, so will skill requirement and new areas of learning.

This opinion is backed by Gartner, who recently said that AI will cancel out 1.8 million jobs but create 2.3 million in 2020. The research and advisory company has earmarked 2020 as a pivotal year in terms of AI-related job dynamics, and predicted AI will become a valuable job initiator.

The impact AI will have on jobs will depend on the industry in question. Next year, manufacturing will be the worst hit, but education, healthcare and the public sector will see a continuing demand for jobs. By 2020, AI will be creating more jobs than it wipes out, rising to two million net-new jobs by 2025.

Research vice president at Gartner, Svetlana Sicular, suggests a shift in job numbers is to be expected. She stated: “Many significant innovations in the past have been associated with a transition period of temporary job loss, followed by recovery, then business transformation and AI will likely follow this route.”

AI will help increase the productivity of numerous jobs. Many of the jobs that will go will be middle- and low-level positions, but these will make way for millions of new roles ranging from low-skilled, entry-level positions to managerial roles too.

But there’s more to this than simply the net increase of jobs. It’s now up to IT leaders to take stock of which jobs will be lost, which jobs will be created, and identify how workers will collaborate, make decisions, and solve problems in the future.

According to Sicular: “Now is the time to really impact your long-term AI direction.

“For the greatest value, focus on augmenting people with AI. Enrich people’s jobs, reimagine old tasks and create new industries. Transform your culture to make it rapidly adaptable to AI-related opportunities or threats.”

Sicular also points out that AI and automation are not the same: “Most calamitous warnings of job losses confuse AI with automation – that overshadows the greatest AI benefit – AI augmentation – a combination of human and artificial intelligence, where both complement each other.”

Gartner predicts other benefits of AI in the workplace. For example, when applied to non-routine work, AI is more likely to support human employees than replace them. The combination of humans working alongside machines will be far more effective than if either just humans or just machines worked alone.

As Craig Roth, research vice president at Gartner explained: “Companies are just beginning to seize the opportunity to improve non-routine work through AI by applying it to general-purpose tools. Once knowledge workers incorporate AI into their work processes as a virtual secretary or intern, robo-employees will become a competitive necessity.”

Gartner estimates that by 2021, AI augmentations will produce nearly £2.2 trillion in business value and claw back 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity.

But that doesn’t mean businesses can sit back and enjoy the ride. Businesses need to reinvest the savings they make as a result of AI in order to enhance the customer experience, maximise value generation and keep an efficient business model.

For now, the future of work is bound to change. I would rather be part of that journey with an optimistic view that the jobs we do now will not exist in the years to come, but a new skill set will be required to fuel organisations to deliver products and services to their customers in a more innovative and intuitive way.

 

Are you looking for ways to optimise your IT team to ensure AI has a positive impact on your business? Speak to the Talent International team today to find out how your industry will fare.

 

By Darren Wells