While Artificial Intelligence offers great opportunity for businesses, a prominent concern coming out of the AI revolution surrounds the workforce. There are worries that further developments and implementation of AI will leave many employees without jobs as their roles become increasingly automated. This was highlighted in a recent report from PwC, which found that over 10 million UK workers could be replaced by robots within 15 years, as routine tasks and jobs are affected by automation.
This fear is not unfounded, the technology’s capability to automate predictable, non-personal tasks is likely to result in certain roles in some businesses becoming fully automated. However, AI also provides a huge opportunity for organizations – and their workforce - going forward.
AI is already transforming businesses, enabling them to take advantage and gain competitive insight from the vast amounts of data available to them. Formula 1 teams are analyzing data for improvements that could give them an edge over competitors, while councils have customer service bots to deal with the extensive queries they receive, reducing both costs and customer waiting times.
Because of its increasing capabilities, it’s likely that jobs such as those in call centres, routine machine operation, and stock taking will soon no longer be carried out solely by humans. This will result in industries such as manufacturing undergoing further evolution, particularly at the lower skilled end. We will also see AI play a role in automating information gathering and report writing in the professional service industries – e.g. legal, accountancy, finance and insurance.
However, positions that require highly emotive skills, such as training, counseling, and restaurant service are unlikely to be predominantly delivered by AI, even if the technology develops the capability to do so. These professions require a uniquely human approach that could arguably never be provided by AI. Equally, situations requiring human judgment or empathy, such as managing a team or making judicial decisions, will still need a human touch.
We should also consider the new roles that AI will create. Current AI deals almost exclusively with predictability where lots of data exists. Human input is needed to identify the most effective and useful data to train AI to harness data and extract business value from it. Machines, through active learning, can begin to identify what data is needed in order to devise more effective predictions. Without initial training and business context supplied by a human, they may not add any value.
Rather than jobs eliminated, we’ll see jobs changed and roles augmented, to achieve more, by AI. Organizations will need people who have the capability to interact, train and implement these technologies. AI is simply a tool like any other, and people will be required to handle the technology correctly and understand where its application will be most effective.
AI will undoubtedly change the way businesses operate, creating a safer, more efficient and data-driven working environment, and this will affect jobs. However, the human role in the workforce will not be going anywhere anytime soon, but rather it will evolve. There will be winners and losers, but the smartest companies will recognize the challenge and ensure that the personnel are available to take on these roles and guarantee that firms are making the most out of the technology.