Despite the field of artificial intelligence not yet having provided us with essential tea-making robots or machines to make our beds, it is undoubtedly becoming a bigger part of our lives. The rise in its’ capabilities puts it on a level of sophistication that now makes it essential to the running of many businesses.
Although true AI has not yet arrived, automation represents the human/machine clash and employment debate that genuine AI will inevitably bring. In recent years, AI/automation has taken center stage in discussions surrounding the evolution of the workplace, namely the question of job security and human obsolescence.
Research states that, as a result of the effect AI has had on the labour market, over 30% of all UK jobs could be in jeopardy by the early 2030’s.
However, this debate is far from new, with employment worries being at the forefront of past technological revolutions. Through each one, it was found that more jobs were created than destroyed. The hope is, that the same can be said for automation.
Here, I run down two of the opposing views about AI’s impact on the workplace.
As a general consensus, robots that think in the same way as humans are far from being a reality, which seemingly gives humans the upper hand. However, with many industries which require a generally lower skill level, such as sale, wholesale, manufacturing and HR, it becomes more likely that AI will simply replace workers in these jobs.
Another issue presented here is that the jobs at stake tend to be those of a lower wage. With these at risk of becoming automated, it could boost the pay gap between less educated and more educated workers, leading to a period of economic inequality.
The worst part is, it’s already happening. We have already seen instances where jobs have been automated in order to increase efficiency and cut costs, with, it has to be said, varying degrees of success. Hasn’t it become obvious that machines are just far superior to humans at checking if an item is correctly placed in the bagging area…
However, if we are to rely on the patterns that have emerged from past technological changes, it is fair to say that we aren’t in for an employment apocalypse, just a shift in the nature of work that is on offer.
This mindset offers the possibility that AI will actually augment or create more jobs in industries including Communications and IT, Professional Services and Media & Entertainment.
Typically, these industries require more creative or ‘human’ skills, such as computing, architecture and engineering, which are harder for AI to replace. With AI developing cognitive processes, allowing them to complete routine tasks, workers will be free to focus on the more rewarding and interesting parts of their jobs, helping them to become more efficient and productive.
If this positive outlook about AI is right in the long run, it may lead to a total re-evaluation of schools’ teaching methods. Children just starting school may eventually move into jobs which don’t even exist yet, which, to appease the pessimists, will possibly offset the loss of jobs in other sectors
Whichever side of the fence you sit on, until we have more knowledge about the future of AI, it is difficult to predict the extent to which it will redefine the workplace. Similar to past revolutions, the rise of AI is merely a generational hurdle that we need to overcome. It is a multi-faceted issue in terms of changing the way we live and work, to accommodate a world in which, AI and automation plays a huge role.
Although both sides of this debate are backed up by facts, figures and technical experts, only time will answer the burning question: Is AI here to work with us, or against us?