The increased presence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within public and professional discourse has produced colourful discussions and debates concerning its likely impact on society and employment. AI is an inescapable reality of today’s Information Age with numerous existing and potential applications inspiring a variety of different responses, ranging from apocalyptic fear to fascination and excitement. In this post, we explore the potential impact AI might have on the world of work – an aspect of society that is so fundamental to our lives.
Technological advances, such as AI, transform workplaces and jobs. More and more tasks, particularly those of knowledge workers, depend on some form of technology. After all, many jobs are dependent on computers and the internet today.
Technological progress obviously infers some sort of convenience, such as the possibility to automate repetitive tasks that may be boring for a human. Additionally, it may be argued that automatisms can execute monotonous tasks more reliably than humans, resulting in fewer errors and therefore assuring a better outcome.
However, the trend of automating tasks and jobs in order to create more workplace efficiency involves the danger of making jobs – and people – redundant. A study by PwC found that 30% of existing jobs in the UK are at potential risk of automation. A further piece of research by HR Magazine earlier this year found that taxi drivers, educators and cashiers will be some of the first jobs to become extinct. This can already be observed in situations where people lose their jobs as a result of automated manufacturing, when smartphone’s digital personal assistants replace secretaries, when chatbots replace human customer service personnel, and when, in the future, self-driving cars will replace chauffeurs, drones the postman, humanoid robots cleaners and nannies – the list will continue to grow.
Apart from the social obstacle of sweeping job loss, this trend has a direct impact on human skill sets. When computers outperform people in various tasks, what is left for the human to do? This is a question to address both practically and ethically. Answers reach from actionable suggestions of job design to the more utopian (at least for now) demand for basic income. However, AI will likely always require a degree of human monitoring and supervision and as a result will start to produce a shift in the way we work and a need for a different skill set. Therefore the ability of future generations to survive in a rapidly changing job market lies with our education systems.
If you didn’t get the chance you can read our full report about AI titled “Collaborative Cognition: When Human and Machine Intelligence Combine” here.
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