Speaking at a recent conference about future technologies, I was asked about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and I realized that there is a real fear when it comes to job security. Everyone loves technology, but there is an uneasy-feeling that machines will take over. We have all seen those movies, and it never ends well for mankind ! So will an AI Robot take your job ?
AI and Automation
At the root of Artificial Intelligence is automation as AI is somewhat simply defined as when a computer accomplishes a task that usually requires human intelligence. Think about the ATM machine. In the past, we walked into a bank’s branch, waited in line, filled in a form, handed it to a teller, who handed us some money. Today, most people drive up to a machine fastened to a wall, insert a plastic card, punch in a pin and money is dispensed. Need the number to a local Italian restaurant ? ask Siri or Google Allo to find it for you. When was the last time you called Directory Inquiries and ask the operator to look up the number…Odds are you can’t remember and some of you are wondering what is Director Inquiries and others are wondering what is this “phone call” thing he speaks of… *sigh
Regardless where you are in the generation timeline, we all agree that computers make our lives easier and yet we feel there is a doomsday coming when machines will one day soon take over people’s jobs.
Could Robots threaten your job ?
The answer is Yes but it there is also a “but”…
According to 2013 University of Oxford study, in the USA, 47% of existing jobs are seen as “high risk” which mean that those jobs will be replaced by machines within 20 years.
Statistics such as 47% obviously causes people to panic, however, let’s unpack that:
The jobs that automation currently fulfills are jobs that are repetitive with little deviation from a set of rules. These jobs are usually scripted and processes-driven so that anyone can do them with very clearly defined parameters. These jobs are the “IF this happens, THEN do that” type of jobs which is what makes them easier to automate. IF there is money in the account, THEN dispense it. IF there is NO money, do not.
So yes; these are the jobs that are most at risk.
The obvious problem is that these jobs are deemed as entry-level jobs for people who are not highly skilled. If you want to scare your kids into taking their education seriously, this is it – Study or you will be replaced by lines of code !
Here is the BUT part of AI… If humans are no longer required to do manual repetitive work, it means that people are free to achieve more and be even more productive. AI will create new jobs – some of which don’t even exist today. Let’s take the motoring industry that is betting its future on self-driving cars. It needs engineers, code writers, out-of-the-box thinkers, designers, security specialists, concept builder etc. to make the self-driving car a reality on a mass scale. Retailers such as Amazon are experimenting with delivery of good via Drones and they will need skills to develop, research, build,deploy and manage these systems. The Health Industry is experimenting with robotic surgeries and telemedicine. Cities are buying smart technology for more efficient management of their resources. All of these industries are based on automation and but still require humans to build and manage systems.
AI will force repositioning
As machines are being handed more tasks, people will need to reposition and becomes skilled in different areas. This is not a new phenomenon. Very few of us are farmers today but in our past most people were. As the machines came during the industrial revolution, people adapted and learned new skills to work in factories. Immigrants who landed in foreign countries after World Wars were forced to learn and develop new businesses ignoring what they did in their native home country. The same applies today as we are released from doing the grunt-work we can focus on productivity.
So will machines takes jobs away that people can do? absolutely. Will it lead to massive unemployment and the decay of society? probably not. We are smart enough to see the trend and are able to train the next generation in different skills that will be required for that new future.