Does AI and Automation have to be Disruptive to the Workforce?
AI and automation are the future, but does that future have to be disruptive, or can it present a chance at workforce transformation?
Seemingly one of the greatest sources of consternation for those about to enter the workforce these days is that their jobs will be taken or rendered obsolete by some kind of automated process or artificial intelligence. A Pew Research Center survey from 2017 reinforces this concern, with 72% of respondents expressing worry about robots and computers doing human jobs.
That is a completely fair concern. Many jobs will indeed no longer be occupied by humans in the future. However, that is not to say the job market as a whole will be diminished. The quality of work and type of work may well get better. Not only that, but its very possible that new jobs will arise in entirely novel industries in response to the resulting technological innovations.
This week, let’s take a look at the good AI and automation can do for the workforce.
Assisting with Work
There are a multitude of jobs that AI won’t have to outright replace. Rather, AI will work in conjunction with the humans already occupying these jobs to make them better. For these industries the biggest challenge will be adaptation, not obsolescence.
The examples here are plentiful. In the medical field AI will be able to pick up on things in X-rays or MRIs that humans can’t, helping medical professionals with their assessments. Legal professionals will have thousands of cases that they couldn’t possibly recall themselves at their disposal through an AI that can. Those in charge of supply chains will have the ability to gain forecasts about the routes their trucks and ships are going to take through AI predictions.
The industries that can be buoyed rather than sunk by AI are wide and varied. Whether they thrive or not will simply come down to whether they have the foresight to adjust accordingly.
Improving the Quality of Work
Going hand-in-hand with our previous point, as a consequence of the supplementary role AI could take in many jobs, those jobs could actually get better. Better in the sense that they not only improve the outcomes of the work but that the nature of the work for the workers become better as well.
The reason for this is twofold. Simply being able to do your work better, in turn, makes the work more rewarding. In addition to that, being able to forgo parts of your work that are repetitive and unengaging, like going through countless legal cases just to find the pertinent one, allows you to focus on the more worthwhile elements of your work.
Finally, it’s important to remember that new jobs always spring up as a result of technological leaps forward. So, while many jobs will indeed be lost, many more will rise up. In fact, a U.K.-centred analysis done by PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) suggested that while millions of jobs would be lost as a result of AI, millions would also be gained, resulting in a net surplus of 200,000 jobs. How that could happen is simple.
When planes became the primary source of long-distance travel over ships, many of those involved in maritime travel lost their jobs. However, many more jobs relating to air travel came into being. Not only that, the tourism industry exploded as more people could travel to more countries in less time and money than before. Innovation led to some initial job loss and then incredible job creation.
Similarly, AI should be able to lead to new jobs. For instance, real-time language translation by AIs might lead to many translators being out of work, but it will also lead to business’ more aggressively pursuing deals with foreign business’ as that obstacle to doing business falls away. Leading to jobs being created out of those deals.
With all that in mind, it remains very understandable that so many are anxious over the current and future role of AI and automation in the workplace. The job market is certainly set to be altered greatly as a result of them.
However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that in times of great change, opportunities arise. It is up to the many industries that are being and will be affected by AI to transform their practices so that they may reap its numerous benefits rather than helplessly await extinction.
- Takeaway 1: AI and automation can be a force for good in the job market in several ways.
- Takeaway 2: Firstly, many jobs won’t be replaced by AI. Instead, they’ll be assisted by AI.
- Takeaway 3: As a result of that assistance, a number of those jobs will be improved.
- Takeaway 4: And, while many jobs will certainly be lost, like with all technological steps forward, many more will become available.
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