“AI will become smarter, resulting in more and more humans pushed out of the job market. Before you know it, billions of people are useless, not by chance but because they have nothing to offer to the world of work.”
– Yuval Noah Harari, Hebrew University of Jerusalem Professor
Everyone is scared that robots will replace their jobs in the future.
We often read articles that pit man against machine. Instead of thinking about which will win – we should be considering how a machine can bring out the best version of a man. To do so, we should consider the drawbacks of AI being applied to traditionally human areas of work to find the best ways for humans and AI to interact.
Humans have two kinds of abilities that allow us to excel: the physical and the cognitive. There is no doubt that humans are better at certain types of creative and abstract thinking, whilst computers excel at detailed and complex analysis.
In the last three years, AI has taken centre stage in technology discussions, with startups and high tech industries becoming the focus. Conversations between experts tend to focus on three areas:
- Job Loss and Displacement
- Job Creation
- Evolution of the Workplace
- Artificial intelligence and the job market
In a report published on 18 January 2016, the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimated that up to 5.1 million jobs could be lost by 2020 in the 15 global leading economies. The WEF found this was due to the disruptive effect AI will have on the labour market. Skills and job displacement will affect every industry and geographical region, but losses could theoretically be offset by job growth in key areas.This period of AI development has been heralded by some as the fourth industrial revolution.
The first industrial revolution led to protests from textile workers as a result of the jobs lost and loss of income. Luddites, a protesting political party, famously handed round leaflets with the following on them:
“Never until now did human invention devise such expedients for dispensing with the labour of the poor”
What will this industrial revolution lead to as a result of artificial intelligence and the job market?
Two experts in the field, Michio Kaku and Yuval Noah Harari, both have deduced that the application of AI to the workplace could result in the rise of a ‘useless class’. Kaku, a noted theoretical physicist and futurist, predicts that “the job market of the future will consist of those jobs that robots cannot perform.” Whilst Harari has called the development of AI the biggest threat of the 21st century. He theorised that AI will become smarter, resulting in more and more humans pushed out of the job market. Before you know it, billions of people are useless, not by chance but because they have nothing to offer the world of work.
The immediate impact of AI on job markets will vary dependent on the industry. For instance, motor vehicle operation would be hit the hardest, with the mainstreaming of self-driving cars. In addition to direct unemployment for humans in truck driving or car driving positions, there also could be a drastic decrease in demand for car ownership. Especially if cars can be accessed for transportation with the push of a button on an app. This will ultimately influence the number of employees employed by the car manufacturing industry. However, according to the WEF, the industries which could suffer the most from potential job losses are healthcare followed jointly by energy and financial services and investors.
- Job Creation:
Creative destruction has been driving employment change since the first steam-powered textile looms displaced craft workers in 18th-century Britain. Consider the effects of the first Industrial Revolution – at one point, more than 95% of jobs involved growing food; today fewer than 2% of people in the developed world work in agriculture. New employment areas were created as a result of the first industrial revolution – why shouldn’t the same be true for the fourth?
Will AI be the biggest job creator in history because of its automation of everyday tasks? Will this free up workers to carry out new tasks? Will artificial intelligence and the job market be inextricably linked?
If you look at most of the automation, it comes down to man and machine combinations. Computers are becoming learning machines and not just ‘doing’ machines. If you look at this idea and look at some of the businesses that have taken off—like Uber, the Apple store, Deliveroo—they are actually cases where humans are made more powerful and more are employed because of the automotive nature of their business models.
The industry that stands to create the most jobs is Information and Communication Technology, followed by Professional Services and Media, Entertainment and Information Professionals. The WEF carried out a study and found that 2.1 million jobs will be created in more specialised areas such as computing, math, architecture, and engineering, which could partially offset some of the expected job losses. By the WEF’s popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job roles that don’t yet exist. Whether you like it or not, AI is going to be a big part of the future workforce by creating jobs, work displacement, and new roles to compensate.
- Evolution of the Workplace:
The workplace will change in a number of ways. The biggest changes will be the location of work, training, the new breed of professional, cybersecurity, and access to legal advice.
The Location of Work:
Most employees or business owners are used to the concept of working remotely nowadays. As connectivity improves, the more they will be able to work from anywhere and exercise more control over their schedules.
Just look at the impact emails have had on the way businesses communicate with their clients, employees, and other businesses.
Alain Dehaze, the CEO of Adecco Group, recently published a piece about the impact of AI on the evolution of the workplace. He believes that the future will herald a new work-life balance in which a job is “no longer confined to traditional working hours or places, with employees taking total control over their schedules and environments”. Dehaze added that the idea of bringing people from abroad to a company’s headquarters could disappear.
Education and Training:
To be employed in any job you need reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. These are taught to children from a young age, but the nature of AI means these skills could change.
The chairman of the Open Data Institute and member of the UK government’s data policy group recently argued that a new kind of literacy will be created – data literacy. There will also be a need for individuals who view the world in terms of computational thinking with the curriculum of schools and training in the workplace needing to reflect this. Bottom line, the subjects your children will be studying could be very different from what you studied.
A majority of businesses believe that investing in skills, rather than hiring more short-term or virtual workers, is the key to successfully managing disruptions to the labour market for the long term. Research representing more than 13 million employees in nine industry sectors and 15 economies found that 50% of businesses are treating future workforce planning and are more likely to invest in reskilling than those that do not. In the UK, 28% of the top skills that employees look for are expected to change by 2020.
The New Class of Professional:
As previously discussed, one of the biggest fears around robots and AI in the workplace is that many jobs will be replaced and income inequality could rise. The change in curriculum will ultimately lead to workers being increasingly segregated into low-skill/low-pay and high-skill/high-pay segments. Essentially, the jobs being replaced will give rise to new roles that people, who have been educated and trained with the required tech skill sets, can take up.
Interestingly the rise of the new professional could impact the internal hierarchy of businesses when AI-related skill sets are needed. Not only would segregation between low-skill and high-skill be a problem, but there would also be a generational divide. Senior management’s education will reflect the old curriculum, while new trainees and employees will have the greater technological knowledge, making them ultimately more valuable. To remedy this, businesses must ensure that training crosses generational divides in order to not upset the existing hierarchy.
In 2015, the Global Protection index revealed that 22% of UK businesses suffered data loss, with an average cost of £920,000 for breached businesses. Over the last five years, the cost of cybercrime has increased by 200%. In fact, it has been estimated that the cost of data breaches will cost businesses £1.58 trillion up to 2019.
Questions have been raised by security experts as to how the development of AI could help mitigate data breaches and improve global cybersecurity. The majority of specialists think that a hybrid approach between machine and man is the most likely security landscape by 2020.
AI would help eliminate human errors. The more technological advancements are made, the worse humans are at dealing with the 24-hour nature of modern-day security threats. Robots do not get tired, do not take breaks, and operate at the same level throughout the day.
Ultimately, the AI component provides the support, analogous to the productivity of a team over an individual, offering indications and suggestions which can be accepted or rejected by the user. A collaborative approach will be ideal in the foreseeable future between AI and humans with the AI component effectively becoming one of the team.
Access to Legal Services:
When lawyers are supported by technology, they will be free to leverage their time and expertise to interpret data, pass their professional judgement, and function in a way benefiting their professional training.
Globalisation, technological advances and the financial crisis led to the streamlining of the legal process. Now documents are outsourced to decrease the cost of high volume / low-value legal work. This has meant that the places that get this work now are taking repetitive tasks from high-priced law firms. They also confirmed that technology and process management—together with legal expertise—are all essential legal delivery components.
Technology is the vehicle for a better, faster, cheaper and more transparent delivery of legal services. For instance, several corporate legal departments, law firms, and service providers now use AI for document review and standardisation as well as the more recent developments in applying AI to analyse the outcome of a good legal outcome.
AI’s also has broader potential to make legal services more accessible for people who have previously been marginalised by the legal industry. 49% of people who have a legal issue never seek legal advice. This inability of individuals and small businesses to secure legal representation due to lack of access and high cost is an acute problem often referred to as “the access to justice crisis.” Here’s hoping AI will streamline legal processes to ensure everyone has an equal right to justice.
Although forecasts vary between regions and industries, it is clear that AI will be a momentous change to the current work landscape. Businesses will have to take more responsibility for ensuring job creation outweighs job loss by upskilling and reskilling their current workforce. Governments should also make rapid changes to existing education systems to prepare future workers for the new working reality.
Without a doubt, artificial intelligence and the job market are going to be combined for an exciting future.