Should We Be Afraid of Automation in 2018?

This is a question that employees in nearly every industry are asking each other. But, the answer may surprise you.

22Jan

It's no secret that concerns have been brewing over the past few years about the rapid progression artificial intelligence has made. With machines getting smarter and smarter, it's understandable that people are worried about what is to come.

Specifically, people tend to be focused on how automating certain jobs and processes will affect the workforce. In the doomsday scenario that many AI skeptics imagine, all low-skill laborers have been replaced with machines that can work with far more efficiency. And, they don't need to be compensated. However, this situation is far from the reality of AI in the workplace, and also won't be happening in the near future.

The truth of the matter is that automation is actually becoming more and more of a necessity in the workplace. Automating simple tasks such directing phone calls or automating social media posts go a long way in increasing productivity for a business.

Need more reassurance that artificial intelligence isn't going to upset the workforce this year? Let's take a closer look.

Employees can adapt

Your boss isn't going to start roaming the office halls with his or her proverbial ax and start getting rid of employees as soon as the right automation tools become available.

Why? Because it simply doesn't make sense to get rid of an employee (someone who has already been trained and knows the company) in favor of a computer program. It would be far more efficient to take that employee and laterally cross-train them (or even promote them) so that both the employee and the company can benefit.

Even for jobs that require repetitive tasks, automation won't completely phase out their positions. If anything, it will eliminate busy work and allow those employees to focus on other tasks. Workers will be more than willing to take on other roles if it means keeping their jobs.

Employees are willing to give it a shot

Contrary to what the AI doomsayers proclaim, studies show that workers actually aren't afraid that automation will have a negative impact on their job. In fact, 30% of employees feel it will be a positive experience to have increased automation at their company. These same reports concluded that only 14% of employees actually fear that AI automation tools will take their roles at their place of employment.

Integrating automation with current business practices isn't black and white either. Meaning, it's not an all-or-nothing type of situation. It's possible (and highly likely) that most of the automation we see this year will be implemented to help employees work at optimum efficiency.

Take a look at history

Dubbed 'technological unemployment', the fear that automation will destroy jobs and leave people searching for employment dates all the way back to the 1800s. Those working in the agriculture industry worried that new and improved technology would devour the industry and turn farmers into a thing of the past.

While there are not nearly as many farmers today as there were two centuries ago, this doesn't mean that everyone who once had a farming job was out on the street. Many found work in producing the same machines that optimized efficiency in the agriculture industry. And remember, this was over 200 years ago at a time when not many alternatives were available.

Fortunately, it is very unlikely you'll completely lose your job in favor of a machine. The workforce was very different back then, and there are far more possibilities today in terms of jobs compared to the 19th century.

Artificial intelligence still needs humans

While automated technology has improved in the last decade, it's still far away from being self-sufficient. Sometimes, AI even faces roadblocks that it cannot overcome without external help from a human. If we left all AI run unsupervised, chances are that most would encounter an issue and stop functioning.

But, as previously mentioned, there would be no way to put it back on the right track without human assistance. Thus, the fears of a mass exodus of human employees that ushers in robot replacements are nothing more than paranoia.

Automation can be a very beneficial tool if integrated correctly. But, employees need to accept its existence in the workplace if both the employee and the automation system are going to benefit the company as much as possible. By working with AI and not against it, employees will be able to experience an increase in productivity.

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