Artificial intelligence (AI) has made huge progresses in the past few years. Many worry about its mighty power and other fear that in a near future a general artificial intelligence could pose a threat to humanity. But specialists apprehend that the main threat is that AI advances could lead to economic dislocation. What can AI actually do? What impact will AI have on jobs? Could robots lead to mass unemployment?
(Ro)bots are doing more and more things
As you may have noticed in the past months, bots are everywhere. We have bots plugged to messaging channels like Skype, Messenger, Slack talking to you executing daily tasks but also in your fridge, in cash registers and soon in many other physical devices. But those are just digital bots. We already have physical robots in different places, helping you pay at the department store, greeting you at the hotel to check in. And, well, let’s be honest, your car is already a robot in itself: already driverless and connected to satellite for GPS. So, why are bots becoming such an important part of our daily life? They’re getting smarter and smarter thanks to the integration of artificial intelligence, but what can they really do? Here are three use cases to help you visualise the power of bots.
You get a ton of customer support requests and most of the time, the questions are extremely similar? The last thing you want is hiring more people to endlessly answer these requests. One way to solve this issue would be to build an automated FAQ on your website. This is where a bot can help you get one step further. Not only does it deliver 24/7 support no matter what, but it also won’t get tired of answering the same questions over and over again. It is frictionless, and that means your customer is taken care of in the best way possible. Of course that doesn’t mean we remove humans from the equation, for complex requests there is still a fallback so customers can directly speak to an operator making the operation reassuring in case of emergency.
In another sector, bots can become the perfect travel assistant. At each stage of the client’s journey, it easily provides relevant information to the user and helps in retrieving information that matters such as the time of the flight, the change of boarding gate, information about the airport and even the location of your luggage if lost. It can also inspire potential travellers on their next vacations or give them custom recommendations based on the client historical data and current location or destination.
Bots will also redefine the way we work in the health sector. Answering anxious parents’ questions about their newborn’s health, giving a temporary diagnosis based on recommendations from accredited doctors and calling the emergencies if necessary, and much more.
As the bot ecosystem evolves and technology improves, bots will be able to automate all kinds of processes, even complex tasks such as handling strategic decisions, helping you with your mortgage, handling your tax returns and maybe even your education.
Yes, it might destroy jobs…
Artificially intelligent applications can understand humans and take actions on our behalf. As of now, we already have many smart assistants such as Alexa (Amazon), Cortana (Microsoft) , Siri (Apple) and Allo (Google). Over the next five years, they will become much better at making decisions on our behalf in very complex environment, which will enable mass adoption of technological breakthroughs like self-driving cars. But what does it mean for us mere humans?
As Brian Hopkins, VP at Forrester said :
“By 2021, a disruptive tidal wave will begin, solutions powered by AI/cognitive technology will displace jobs, with the biggest impact felt in transportation, logistics, customer service, and consumer services.”
Even someone with a superior IQ might get useless. Laurent Alexandre, a Paris-born surgeon – urologist, author and entrepreneur said:
“The best way to reduce inequality is to increase cognitive abilities of idiots. Of course, it is not really politically correct to say this, but it is a reality. And it will be even more. Question: in 2050, what will we do with people with an IQ less than 150? Answer: Nothing.”
Should we go that far? I personally don’t think so, but that’s for you to decide.
A report published by CSIRO explains that science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills are used in 75% of the fastest-growing occupations and suggested that if the ideal job does not exist, the worker may need to create it.
“Entrepreneurial skills are likely to be increasingly important for small business founders and employees within large organisations.” – CSIRO Report
The report also stated that education and healthcare will continue to contribute to job creation, emphasising that “social interaction skills and emotional intelligence will become increasingly important”.
Another report from McKinsey shows that almost every other thing professionals do on an average workday can already be automated by artificial intelligence. Oxford University & Deloitte also point out that about 35% of current jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerisation by 2035. Looking closer at the data shows that jobs performed by women are relatively safe, while those typically performed by men are at high risk. This should come as no surprise: of the 3 million truck drivers in the U.S., more than 95 percent are men; of the nearly 3 million secretaries and administrative assistants, more than 95 percent are women. Self-driving cars are likely to be accessible in the near future, whereas office employees suffer no such imminent threat.
Why AI (and especially bots) will create massive jobs openings
The revolution is en route, but that doesn’t mean less jobs. Andrew Moore, Dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University stated:
“Technology does change the mix of jobs. You’re going to see doctors taking more of the role that involves the personal interaction with patients and less of the role of trying to keep huge amounts of evidence in their head. The nurse may become more prestigious than the doctor. If you look around, there are also new kinds of creatives roles being produced across the market. There are so many jobs that didn’t exist just a few years ago.”
Technology has not only created new business units and jobs, it also created entirely new companies and businesses. There is obviously a surge in demand for technical skills that will only increase with increasing the automation of things. If we take the example of our driverless car, we’ll still need a mechanic to fix it if the engine is broken.
As stated above, new jobs will be created in STEM fields. A study from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) shows that one million industrial robots directly created 3 million jobs. Of the six countries examined in the study, five saw their unemployment rates go down as the number of robots used went up.
The report also showed job creation will not be confined to STEM fields. The paper identifies six sectors where employment is likely to increase directly because of robots: automotive, electronics and components, renewable energy, skilled systems integrator and in-house operators, robotics and food and beverage. You won’t need to be an engineer to find jobs created by robots.
Whether it’s robots, artificial intelligence or some form of automation, they are going to transform the jobs we do and how we work. Jobs of tomorrow could be drone air-traffic controller, monitoring drones delivering packages for customers or data medic doing remote patient monitoring thanks to the explosion of wearable technology which will have a massive impact. Besides that, all creative jobs are far more resistant to automation and will continue to grow in the future.
Saying all this, we must remember that 30 years ago, we thought that 2000 would be the year AI would take over the world and everything would be automatised. Still in 2016 we’re very far from it and humans account for a lot of the work. There is always a gap between what we think will happen and what actually happens. Who knows what the future holds for us.