The Impacts of AI and Automation on the Future of Work

Since the first industrial revolution in the 1800s, the fear of machines taking jobs from workers has been a popular headline within the media. Even now, articles are still published about software robots stealing people’s jobs. These reports are often overexaggerated and designed to create both wonderment and hysteria, however, these articles are flawed in their lack of recognition of our increasingly digital world and the human ability to adapt to change.

A recent Forbes article was written by Parna Sarkar-Basu President of Brand and Buzz Marketing is an example of a growing number of writers attempting to dispel the myths of AI (software robot) and provide five very useful reassurances about our future with machines.

1. Overall, robots can't replace humans

This is the fundamental statement of Sarkar-Basu’s article – robots are great but there are limits to their functionality. We are living in a digital age and are creating more and more data, which AI can process and provide an output for; but people are needed to identify and prepare the data and create actionable insights from that data which can benefit the business. Roles such as data scientists, programmers and analytics translators are essential for the effective application of AI. This is perhaps why the UK government has recently invested £18.5 million in education and skills to support roles such as these.

2. Robots won't eliminate the human touch

Software Robots are very good at doing specific and highly repetitive tasks, but they are as of yet not very good at tasks which require emotional intellect or creativity; for example within face to face customer interactions and HR disputes where empathy is essential to a successful outcome. These skills are uniquely human and can often add the most value to an organisation and as such, there will always be a requirement for them.

3. Robot and humans will continue to collaborate

As stated in Sarkar-Basu’s article there are numerous ways this is currently happening, from more traditional physical robots working with an operator on a manufacturing line to systems such as Celaton’s inSTREAM™ platform. Collaboration with human operators enables the software to continually learn in a process called ‘human in the loop’ and as a result, it is able to process content regardless of the format it's received in. Human in the loop enables the software to be scaled up with business growth and adaptable to changing digital content, meaning there is potential for continual optimisation and efficiencies to be achieved.

Human in the Loop

4. More jobs will be created

Contrary to the claims ‘machines will steal jobs’, it is rare that automation makes a job entirely redundant and in many cases, new roles are created to support the innovation. The UK government’s investment is reflective of this understanding and demonstrates the need to provide people with the right skills to take up these roles. In addition, there is likely to be a greater focus on roles that require those unique human skills, which create those personal experiences needed in an increasingly digital world.

Future of Work

5. AI opens up opportunities

As demonstrated by points 1 to 4, it’s not all doom and gloom. AI not only enables us to do our work more effectively, but it also opens up a whole new world of possible roles which we may find more interesting or rewarding. As stated by Parna Sarkar-Basu ‘I believe the future of work is brighter with AI and robotics, assuming we start preparing now’ and articles such as hers and the government's investment are indicators that we are starting to take our future supported by machines more seriously.

Overall what Sarkar-Basu’s article highlights is that organisations, governments, educational institutions need to read ‘Terminator-style’ headlines with caution. They need to start preparing now through truly understanding the real applications of AI, investing in the skills and knowledge required in order to support the new world of work and to minimise misconceptions and mistrust.

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