The impact of AI, robots and automation on workplace of the future
Artificial Intelligence, robotics and automation are no longer something you see only in science fiction movies. They are very much a living reality. We see them embedding deeper into our lives, every day. By looking at the present, it’s clear that they are here to stay. Be it AI, machine learning or driverless cars, one thing is clear; you will surely be seeing more of them in the future. So, what does this mean for you? How will this affect your workplace? Will AI really revolutionize the workplace of the future?
And would this mean more comfort or rather fewer jobs for humans?
If you go by the optimists’ words, old jobs will no longer be there while new ones will emerge. But exactly which jobs are more likely to get replaced by machines?
Do you have the future-ready skills yet, to take up these tech-led jobs?
And who will be more in charge? Us or the bots?
So, many questions arise in our minds. Let’s dig deeper.
The Elimination of Jobs
The concept of new technologies replacing jobs is actually not so alien to us. In the past century, so many job titles got displaced. No longer do we hear of a milkman, travel agent, switchboard operator and many others. Bowling alley pinsetter…what’s that?! You get the picture.
However, history shows that as jobs in one industry reduced, more were created in another. The number of jobs in the railways went down. Instead, new jobs were created in the airlines. If technology made humans redundant, it also paved the way for new jobs. Artificial Intelligence brought along fresh titles such as social media managers, data scientists and web developers.
Reconstructing work & automation of activities
We often try to analyze the impact of AI on jobs in the workplace of our future. It’s easy to follow the historical pattern and believe that this 4th industrial revolution would be similar to its previous counterparts.
However, before jumping to any conclusions, let’s pause and understand the meaning of ‘work’ itself.
If work is a collection of tasks, performed in a sequence from start to end, then, of course, it’s almost evident that machines will replace manual work. However, for a moment, let’s think out of the box and reconstruct the definition of work.
Looking through the AI lens, work can be viewed as an attempt to collectively solve a problem. It is no longer just a set of standard tasks performed in a particular order. A further breakdown of a problem-solving effort would look somewhat like this:
- Humans outline a problem
- Machines help to solve it
- Humans assess if the solution is up to the standard
Imagine how beneficial it can be if humans and machines work together effectively to solve problems rather than to simply complete procedures.
The Emergence of AI-influenced Job Titles
There is a best-selling book on this subject written by Paul Daugherty and James Wilson, the managing director of Information Technology and Business Research at Accenture Research. It’s titled Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI. In this book, the authors suggest that during the time of AI, at present and in the future, jobs can be divided into two categories. The workplace of the future would either have trainers or explainers.
Trainers & Moderators
The job of trainers would be to teach artificial intelligence to the machines. Chatbots are already very much in use. However, you’ll probably agree that although they do perform the basic functions, they often sound stiff and give inappropriate answers. This is no surprise. Throughout the history of technology, we have seen that machines have been unable to mimic humans completely. (Shows us who the real boss is!)
This is why in the workplace of the future (and present) trainers have an important role to play. There is still a long way to go until machines can understand human behaviour and psychology completely. Hence, it’ll be the trainers’ job to inject emotional intelligence into machines.
In addition to offering training, humans will also be needed to moderate content. At the moment, tech giants like Facebook and Google employ content moderators to monitor online content. Their job is to asses violent and inappropriate content posted online and decides if anything that has been reported as being abusive, needs to be removed. At least in the near future, these jobs are only expected to increase, as machines are yet to get ‘intelligent’ enough to judge content on their own.
The role of explainers would be to bring together machines and humans. For example, a senior-level executive might find it hard to make a decision, based solely on the analysis given by a machine. In such circumstances, a human ‘explainer’ would reassure the person by clarifying in simple terms the purpose of the machine.
Another job of the explainers would be to identify any problems in the work performed using artificial intelligence. They would also work to eliminate these machine errors.
Will there be an impact on high earning professionals?
It’s easy to understand that the first jobs to get replaced by artificial intelligence would be of physical nature. These are the low-wage and low-skill level jobs. After all, this is what we have learnt from the previous industrial revolutions.
According to a report published by McKinsey, during 2016-2030, about 400 million human workers may be replaced by machines that use artificial intelligence. That’s about 15 per cent of the entire world’s workforce. This also leads to the fact that millions of people will have to switch occupations and acquire new skills in the workplace of the future.
Now the question is will the C-suite executives and other high wage professionals be affected in any way? The short answer to this is a yes!
It has been seen that 20 per cent of the tasks performed by a CEO can be done using artificial intelligence. The jobs of executives won’t be replaced by machines in their entirety. However, to be able to work alongside machines, they would need to gain new skills.
On the other hand, the cost of automating some of the low-paid jobs like gardeners and child care providers is more than their actual salary. So, you would still get to see some of the conventional workers.
What Skills Will We Need in The Future?
We live in a world that is constantly changing. According to a report published by the World Economic Forum, almost 65% of the jobs, the primary school kids of today will do when they grow up, do not exist yet.
With diverse teams working to solve specific problems, analytical thinking and problem-solving skills will be a must. By 2020, almost 40% of an average organization’s workforce would be made up of remote workers.
To survive and excel in such circumstances, you would need to collaborate across networks. Humans would need to have great written and verbal communication skills and be curious and imaginative. The workforce of the future would have to be most comfortable with agility and adapting to changes.
Working with Machines in the Workplace of the Future
For optimum productivity, humans will have to work hand in hand with the machines. There is plenty to do for humans at present. And there will be plenty to do even in the future workplace. The nature of work that will change and new skills will have to be acquired. But in the end, it will all be for the good of humans
What’s your opinion on the subject? Let me know in the comments below.