Artificial intelligence, the two words that have become common on most peoples lips. To those unfamiliar with the term, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the branch of computer sciences that places emphasis on the development of intelligent machines, thinking and working like humans. The 21st century has seen a surge in the use of AI in the running of operations, which has left people with the question, is this the beginning of the end for human labour? The answer to this question is yes and no, and this article will explain how.
AI based automation has seen tasks become a lot easier to complete. A job that would normally take days to be completed, has been reduced to a matter of hours for completion. The question now becomes, what happens to those workers who were employed to do those tasks? Do we still need them in the workplace? As AI is gradually adopted and implemented within workplaces, it is a belief that it will gradually take over larger sectors of production and bring about unemployment. The manual jobs that some people are currently employed to do, will become largely automated as companies fight to stay on top of their game in these ever-changing times.
In a study by the McKinsey Global Institute, it was predicted that by 2030, robots would have replaced as much as 30 percent of the world’s current human labour force. Depending upon various adoption scenarios, automation will displace between 400 and 800 million jobs by 2030, requiring as many as 375 million people to switch job categories entirely. This is alarming, as this means having to change a profession completely.
A 2018 report by the world economic forum proposed that artificial intelligence would create about 58 million jobs by 2022, and that it will also eliminate about 75 million jobs by the same year. Looking at these statistics, the number of jobs creates by AI is way less in comparison to the jobs it will eliminate. While AI is necessary to making processes a lot more efficient, the efficiency also comes at a cost.
While automation can be based on artificial intelligence, the difference between the two is apparent. With automation, as seen in many manufacturing industries, you can create a machine that will create the product from start to finish, thereby simplifying the process. However a machine used in the manufacturing of a car may not be usable in the manufacturing of chemicals for example. With AI on the other hand, it can be applied to essentially any industry. So in the near future, the world will see intelligence that can be applied to the medical industry, legal industry, and journalism for example. This is why the near future will see the number of jobs being created by AI will be way less than those it eliminates.
Which jobs will be created and which ones will be eliminated?
Jobs that will most likely disappear in light of the Artificial Intelligence revolution are those jobs that may require some training, but not much. These are your blue-collar and white-collar jobs. This leaves low-skill jobs, and high-skill jobs that require high levels of training and education. There will also be an increasing number of jobs related to programming, robotics, engineering, etc. as these skills will be needed to improve and maintain the AI and automation that will be adopted.
Another question that may be raised is, will the people who lost their middle-skilled jobs be able to move into these high-skill roles instead? The answer to that is yes, but not without significant training and education. What about moving into low-skill jobs? Well, the number of these jobs is unlikely to increase, particularly because the middle-class loses jobs and stops spending money on food service, gardening, home health, etc.
Artificial intelligence will inevitably change the way we live, the question however is when this will happen. If predictions are anything to go by, the next decade will see a significant change in the way work processes are conducted as AI gradually takes over. Now may be the time to start looking into increasing ones’ skill set in preparation for the future.
Lindah Mavengere is a Business Consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants (Pvt) Ltd, a business management and human resources consulting firm.
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