Will AI destroy jobs or create new ones?

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Mon Feb 22, 2021

Wikipedia defines artificial intelligence (AI) as the intelligence demonstrated by machines, unlike the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals, which involves consciousness and emotionality.

The general public still thinks AI is something of the future and that we are not ready for something so revolutionary. Recent advancements in the field show that we cannot be further from the truth. The applications of artificial intelligence are proliferating in every major industry today. In medicine, technology, space, economics - battlelines are being drawn. The future is now. 

Although AI is responsible for rapid technological growth today, being used by numerous industries and at the same time enhancing the lives of people, there are quite a few concerns regarding the impact of artificial intelligence on employment and economic growth. A recent report by Bloomberg stated that more than 120 million workers will need to be retrained in the next three years due to the impact of AI on jobs and the economy. However, there have also been several reports suggesting quite the opposite, that developments in Artificial Intelligence will lead to more job opportunities and improve the quality of a company’s workforce. Manpower will be required to build, maintain and improve artificial intelligence. This ambivalence on the impact of artificial intelligence is evident from the excitement shown by top tech giants in the world today who are fighting to leverage AI in any way they can to increase revenue while at the same time battling the risks involved in upscaling their workforce and employing new talents in the field.

We can observe this by looking at how AI is encroaching into industries to attempt to replace human workforce by automating monotonous tasks and activities. For example, tasks relating to customer service, call center operations, document/file management, content moderation, accounting — all of which is being taken over by artificial intelligence — are being replaced by AI with dramatically increased productivity. Another example is on the production lines of large-scale factories, where humans are being replaced by robots that can operate, lift, carry, replace and categorize products while being more efficient and accurate. Although this is highly lucrative to the industries anchoring on AI, it has a serious impact on the employment of less-skilled/educated workers who depend on such jobs as a means of sustenance. In effect, developments in AI can be seen to have a direct impact on the severity of the economic downturn. 

While depleting jobs and unemployment make the headlines in the news, they only tell part of the story. The recent hype cycle released by Gartner stated that although AI will replace a significant portion of the low-paying, highly monotonous activities in industry, it will also create close to 2.3 million jobs. So, the question is whether companies can leverage AI to improve their performance while at the same time enhance their workforce by establishing new activities. For example, newer roles are emerging in fields such as psychology, astronomy, economics, and medicine that involve combining the various subsets of AI like machine learning and computer vision to revolutionize the traditional ways in which research and development are carried out. Moreover, the fact that AI is still in its infancy and rapid advancements are being made every day, the scope for AI-related jobs is only going to increase. Deloitte, one of the leading accounting and professional services organizations in the world, stated that there is still a significant shortage of AI talent and there is a growing need for qualified professionals to fill the AI-related roles. This lack of well-trained and skilled workers in the field facilitates more on-the-job training programs, more internship opportunities, and re-skilling of companies’ current workforce. 

 

 

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2021 - Spring - Issue 4
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