AI, chatbot, financial services

How artificial intelligence is changing the way we work

29 Aug, 2017
6 Min Read Dan Ward

How artificial intelligence is changing the way we work

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From chatbot customer service reps to semi-autonomous highway patrol cars, experimentations with artificial intelligence (AI) are finally gaining traction in the real world.

Once seemingly restricted to geeky lab technicians, organisations everywhere are now learning to capitalise on AI and put it to good use. But what effect will the adoption of AI have on human jobs in the future?

It’s comparable to the plight of workers during the industrial revolution in the early 1800s. Hand production methods were overhauled by a new dependence on machines, and many jobs became redundant.

In recent years, machines enabled by advancing technology have resulted in significant job losses. Supermarkets everywhere have traded staff for self-service checkouts, and a factory in Chinax recently replaced 90 percent of its human workers with robots.

'Technological unemployment’ is now a common term used to describe job losses caused by technological change.

However, technology has also paved the way for the creation of millions of new jobs. Silicon Valley, the tech hub of the world, is constantly sprouting billion dollar companies that employ millions of workers worldwide.

Pessimists argue that technology has led to a permanent decline of workers in employment. Conversely, optimists say that while innovation disrupts jobs in the short term, there is never a long-term negative impact on the quantity of jobs.

Which jobs will be most affected by AI?

It would seem that history is likely to keep repeating, with most jobs lost to AI likely to be in low-skilled and low-paid work.

A report by the United Nations in 2016 outlined potential devastation to manufacturing workers in developing countries, where automation could replace 75 percent of jobs and lead corporations to stop outsourcing.

In addition to manufacturing, customer service roles are also at risk from bots capable of simulating conversations, and taxi drivers and chauffeurs may be ousted in favour of driverless cars.

Extensive research byMcKinsey found accommodation and food service industries had the highest number of activities (75 percent) that could be performed by artificially intelligent bots.

Conversely, it found that only 30 percent of activities in manufacturing companies could be replaced, when higher level jobs such as stakeholder interactions, sales, and management were factored into the equation.

Which jobs will stay?

A study by economists at Deloitte paints a positive picture on the future of work in the presence of evolving AI, based on our adaption to new roles since the industrial revolution.

study by economists at Deloitte

It shows that dangerous, physically demanding, and boring jobs have declined. Creative, caring and professional services roles have increased, as have roles which cater to luxury and lifestyle services such as bartending and hairdressing.

As we head into a future of advancing AI, roles that require little brain power will be highest on the chopping block. But as history has demonstrated, skilled roles will remain – forcing young workers to carefully consider their career direction.

Also important to remember is that artificially intelligent robots are exactly that: artificially intelligent. There may never come a time where a robot can be taught to act with the same empathy or care as a human being. And even if they could, it’s doubtful humans would settle for fake compassion in roles where true understanding of the reality of being human is essential.

Where to now?

While workers may need to adapt in the presence of advancing AI, big opportunities exist for organisations willing to embrace innovation.

David Bray, CIO at the Federal Communications Commission stated that:

Artificial intelligence, in some respects, is just a continuation of predictive analytics, a continuation of big data. It is nothing new because technology always changes the art of the possible; this is just a new art of the possible.”

Companies experimenting with big data and online technologies are already reaping the benefits by way of deeper and more profitable relationships with customers. For example, the integration of artificially intelligent chatbots with messaging apps is enabling better communication, and making it easy for customers to find what they need, when they need it.

And instead of being a replacement for human workers, organisations have increased hiring to build teams capable of developing and executing initiatives like these, which then frees up existing staff to work on higher level objectives.

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