Amidst all the hype over AI, a majority of the population thinks that artificial intelligence will steal away the jobs from the humans. And they are not wrong to think that way. We’re already aware of the concerns regarding job losses in recent years with the advancement of the new emerging technologies.
But what exactly is to fear about AI, when it is one of the coolest inventions in the history of humanity? The wishful thinking which majority of the people assessed was that a human touch is required for machines to operate is already a pipe dream with the ‘Rise of AI’. To validate the above statement, let me give you an example of how AI-based technologies are making this apparently unseemly tasks possible – robotics, driverless cars, payment systems, and natural language understanding to begin with.
The day is not far when you will even get food cooked by robotic chefs. And let’s face it, in the age of fast foods, restaurants require speed and agility and not a Michelin-star chef to make and serve those thousands of burgers, pizzas or french fries for the day’s business.
In a recent survey by Gallup in the U.S., 75 percent of the adults believe AI will “eliminate more jobs than it creates.” Similar fears have been echoed in a study by Bruegel analysis, which mentions that “54% of EU jobs are at the risk of computerization.” Singapore’s own unemployment and retrenchment numbers are not very promising with layoffs rising in organizations. In fact, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s figures for Q2 2018 reported that Singapore’s labor market saw higher unemployment and more retrenchments with 80 percent of it in PMETs. The top reason for these layoffs was disruption, business restructuring, and reorganization.
Let us primarily focus on how AI is eliminating jobs for better or worse.
Artificial Intelligence Winning The Race For Jobs
Innovation versus Employment is an age-old debate. As time progresses this discussion is becoming increasingly genuine as companies lean towards automation to improve productivity and margins. Recent biggest layoffs by Standard Chartered in Singapore and Hong Kong as robotics process automation speed up client onboarding, hit home the message more strikingly.
We are well aware the future needs to keep pace with technology. And thanks to emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, bots, and algorithms, jobs are invaded at an evidently faster pace than they are being created.
We are already living in an age of hyper-personalized experiences, so while it may be artificial, it’s still intelligence. Machines will continue to replace humans at jobs with technological advances and AI will cause enormous job losses.
AI in corporate structures is now used on a daily basis – improving productivity and scale. Giant corporations like Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo are seeing artificial intelligence as an opportunity.
They’ve been accelerating and increasing connectivity with customers while attracting new clients along the way using the power of AI. The AI platforms can easily perform the voluminous repetitive task. They are also adept for functioning 24×7 which is impossible for human capacity.
In tasks where a human does not add value to the company, the machine is undeniably going to be its most valuable asset. It improves the output, cuts costs and even guides humans to more ‘thinking’ and ‘rational’ roles.
Impact of Workforce Disruption
What will be the impact of artificial intelligence automation on different sectors of the economy? Can we look forward to huge improvements in productivity levels, better quality of life, freedom from repetitive and boring work? Or should we fear threats to jobs, disruptions to organizations and strain the social fabric?
Mr. Patrick Tay of Singapore Labor Union says, “I expect to see retrenchment figures inch up in Q3 as we continue to see pockets of layoffs due to reorganization, restructuring, and restratification amidst technological/digital disruption...”
Automation technology can already match or has even exceeded the median level of human assistance required. For instance,
- Narrative Science’s Quill turns raw data into readable documents in seconds which readers would assume to be written by an actual author.
- IBM’s Watson can recommend available treatments for specific illnesses, drawing on the medical analysis for those diseases.
- Amazon’s fleet of Kiva robots is equipped with automation technologies that arrange, navigate and coordinate among the set of individual robots to fulfill warehouse orders. This work is actually done around four-times quicker than the company’s previous system.
Tough Times Ahead
While there are strong advocates who predict AI will create more jobs than it takes, however, the fact is all major studies report workforce disruption must be taken seriously.
A November 2017 report by McKinsey Global Institute predicts the effects of automation on the future of work for jobs, skills, and wages. It estimates by 2030 50% of current work activities are automatable by technologies that have already been tested and are found effective. The report also forecasts that in about 60 percent of professions at least one-third of the constituent activities will be automated implying massive workplace transformations and changes for all workers.
These displaced workers will be needed to redeployed quickly to prevent rising unemployment. Increasing unemployment have been breeding grounds for failing democracies, authoritarianism, war, theft and even violence. Even though job complexities lie at the low end of disruption, fueling public anxiety may cause severe political and economic consequences.
Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the City University of New York, says, “Think ‘Intel Inside’. By 2025, artificial intelligence will be built into the algorithmic architecture of countless functions of business and communication, increasing relevance, reducing noise, increasing efficiency, and reducing risk across everything from finding information to making transactions. If robot cars are not yet driving on their own, robotic and intelligent functions will be taking over more of the work of manufacturing and moving.”
We are already living in an age of hyper-personalized experiences, so while it may be artificial, it’s still intelligence. Machines will continue to replace humans at jobs with technological advances and AI will cause enormous job losses. So be prepared that many jobs will be enhanced by AI, many will disappear and many new and as yet unknown jobs will emerge.