I’m sorry but we no longer need you.
That is a phrase we all hope to never hear, but with Covid-19 and now an unstable economy it is something which happens far too often. Now with artificial intelligence (AI) in the equation, can people expect to be told those words more commonly?
AI has become ever-present in our lives and its development has greatly simplified many tasks for businesses, along with individuals. Automation has undoubtedly served as a valuable invention for increased and consistent productivity, albeit consequently this has led to an unnerving discovery – humans can be replaced.
Although most people have gloomy judgements on the advent of AI, this article will cover the positives and negatives whilst hypothesizing which jobs are at most risk through research.
AI Adoption – Is it Different to any Other Technological Advancement? What Does History Say?
According to McKinsey, the number of businesses utilizing AI has doubled since 2017. We’re sure by now you have witnessed machines creating new interactions in your life that had never occurred before. Robots replacing humans as servers in restaurants, self-checkouts, self-driving cars, Siri, AI written articles – the list goes on.
What’s evident is that almost everyone has experienced or witnessed either working alongside AI, or unfortunately being completely replaced by it. This is the impetus behind the pessimistic view society has about AI, but here’s a thought provoker – is this any different to the fear of workers during the industrial revolution?
There’s no denying it, technology dominates our life but this doesn’t inherently make it bad – it’s what we do with it. The Foreign Policy Research Institute says technology has two forms, enhanced and replacement.
The enhanced technology improves on something that exists, while the replacement technology completely removes another – an example being the floppy disk which is now substituted by hard drives.
Now, let’s link this back to the industrial revolution.
Between 1876 and 1930 beyond, the world experienced advancements which have shaped the world. But during those years, when technology started to automate job functions that we now wouldn’t consider a ‘big deal’, at the time were very much a concern for people.
Individuals which worked in textiles expressed great dismay when automation interfered with their profession. The fear of not knowing what impact the technology will have, and the feeling of being replaced creates strong emotions – but that’s just human nature.
Some textile workers were negatively impacted, but the technological advancement created new jobs and still required people with textile skills to operate the machinery.
Something similar can be said for AI.
Checkouts at grocery stores which had humans scanning items and handling the cash are now replaced by ‘self-checkouts’. Did people lose their jobs as a result? Yes. Did it create new jobs? Yes, but perhaps not as many.
Is My Job at Risk because of AI?
This is completely dependent on the skill level of the occupation.
Jobs that require only some level of training are most likely to be replaced by AI.
McKinsey states that 30 percent of the activities in 60 percent of all occupations can be automated. This indicates that a reasonable amount of tasks done by workers can be automated, but not all of them, therefore the entire job cannot be passed onto AI.
And that’s the trend which emerges from this piece of research. Not everyone is at risk of being completely replaced by AI, but it’s likely that everyone will work with AI – note, the keywords were ‘not everyone’.
Unfortunately, someone is bound to lose their job because of AI, with the forecasted number being approximately 400 million workers in the period of 2016 to 2030. That equates to 15% of the current workforce and is considered to be the midpoint impact of AI adoption.
Reports, suggest that the slowest pace of AI adoption across the same time frame would be a loss of 10 million jobs, which is nearly zero percent of our world’s total workforce.
What’s the Bright Side?
There are many people stricken with the fear of robots taking over the world and AI replacing every job, but the research we’ve presented disproves that logic. So if jobs are lost during AI adoption, then what are the positives you ask? More jobs.
There’s multiple sources that confirm AI will create up to 97 million jobs by 2025 – that’s not far away. The only challenge is that most workers currently don’t have the skills to occupy these positions, although this will change as businesses recognize they must implement AI into their operations and upskill their employees to utilize its efficiencies.
While some employees may feel uncomfortable at first, training your staff on how AI can boost their productivity is still important. Overtime, they will come to understand that AI’s purpose is to increase their efficiency and not replace them.
Another notable positive that will come from AI is the scalability it provides businesses. Smaller businesses which have less staff are able to close the gap in terms of output through AI’s capabilities.
Still Not Convinced?
It’s understandable to be concerned over losing your job.
If you’re still not convinced that AI isn’t going to completely replace you, then let’s have a look at the occupations which are most likely to go first.
Luckily, the Oxford University has completed a 72 page study that analyses the most susceptible jobs to automation. Their comprehensive research uses in-depth theory to list up to 702 occupations that are ranked in order from least likely to most likely replaced roles.
The top 10 jobs at highest risk of automation are:
- Title examiners, abstractors and searchers
- Sewers, hand
- Mathematical technicians
- Insurance underwriters
- Watch repairers
- Cargo and freight agents
- Tax preparers
- Photographic process workers
- New accounts clerks
The top 10 jobs at least risk of automation are:
- Recreational therapists
- First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers and repairers
- Emergency management directors
- Mental health and substance abuse social workers
- Occupational therapists
- Orthotists and prosthetists
- Healthcare social workers
- Oral and maxillofacial surgeons
- First-line supervisors of firefighting and prevention workers
Contrary to the belief of most people, from this list we can observe that low-skill jobs aren’t the occupations at most risk. For example servers, janitors, food production workers and transport drivers are classified as low-skilled jobs, however they weren’t listed in the top ten most likely roles to be placed.
In fact, it’s the medium-skilled level jobs which seem to be at most risk. Jobs that only require an average level of training are more susceptible to automation. Why? Because those jobs typically involve some form of data, and this is where AI exceeds the most.
Humans will Always Remain Important
At the end of the day, AI is a machine and is incapable of making decisions which require emotional intelligence. Humans are rich with this quality and are capable of including morals, along with ethics in their decision making process – attributes that will always be needed in the world.
As with every technological advancement that has occurred, humans will learn and adapt. Whilst there may be fear or concern at first, people will realize their importance.
Living with AI is just another learning curve.