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The Truth About AI in the Workplace: Is it Really Going to Replace Humans?

Written by Amy Hunt

The AI software market is expected to grow rapidly over the next few years, estimated to become a 126 billion dollar industry by 2025, it’s without a doubt AI is going to become a conservation of increasing importance. It’s a prospect that many people have mixed feelings about. Nearly three-quarters of US adults believe artificial intelligence will “eliminate more jobs than it creates.” However, less than a quarter were worried automation would impact them personally. 

Research suggests that 47% of CEO’s main concern about bringing AI into the workplace is the difficulty of integrating AI with their existing systems, with 40% of executives saying cost is the biggest obstacle. As the industry grows, more affordable options will emerge; AI’s ability to integrate with existing software will also become more routine. This means, apprehensive or not, AI is going to become a major reality in our workplaces.

It’s easy to see why people feel AI is going to massively disrupt the workforce with self-driving cars and automated factories growing in number. Amazon estimates the first fully autonomous warehouse within the decade. Radical technology advancements isn’t a new workforce concern either. Technology has made leaps and bounds non-stop but UK unemployment has consistently stayed between 4-11% over the last 50 years, with some of the lowest rates evident in recent years.

So what kind of jobs is artificial intelligence actually going to replace, and what will it create?

What kind of work is AI suitable for?

AI still has its limitations and Diffeo says the best way to understand the kind of work AI can do is to break it down into three levels.

Acceleration takes existing processes and helps humans complete them faster, such as auto-complete text. By offering common word and sentence endings the goal is to speed up the writing process. 

Augmentation takes what a human is doing and then improves it. Grammarly is an example of this, it takes a human’s writing and gives improvements for grammar and word-choice to create a stronger piece.  

Automation is different from the other two because it does not involve working with a human but removes them altogether. Self-driving cars are an example of automation. 

What kinds of job AI will replace?

Estimates are that 47% of jobs may be lost to automation but the good news is there’s likely to be net positive job growth into the 2030s. The main roles AI will replace are tedious or repetitive jobs that rely on high-levels of accuracy, such as data management and warehouse work, making way for a more highly-skilled, tech-driven workforce.

Data Analysis

There were 4.66 billion active users on the internet in 2020, that’s 59% of the global population. It leads to huge swathes of data that needs analysing for companies to spot trends and see opportunities. This is reflected in the 344% increase in demand for data scientists since 2010, with Linkedin suggesting there’s over 150,000 shortage of people with data science skills in the US alone. With an average salary of $130,000 not every company has the budget to hire for this role. This means many mid-to-small sized companies may look to invest in AI data analysis, like Deloitte’s LaborWise. The only downside is that AI will not have a human’s creativity when managing data and ability to follow a hunch when following it.

Demand Forecaster 

Machine learning can be used to test mathematical models relevant to your business, predicting changes in demand, supply distributions and product launches. Consultancy firm McKinsey says it can reduce supply chain errors through miscalculations by up to 50%. 

Administration 

AI doesn’t just need to deal with big data, it can be put to great use within companies with the growing demand for administrative AI. Tools like x.ai can connect calendars across companies to automatically coordinate the best time for meetings. 

Marketing

64% of B2B marketers consider AI to be a valuable asset. AI in marketing allows companies to personalise their products more. This means they can actually give customers a more personal experience. Consumers are also highly receptive to this. Research suggests that 83% of consumers in the US and UK are willing to trust retailers with their data in order to receive more tailored, relevant results.

The interesting thing to note is that for a lot of these jobs, they are either jobs that don’t have a human equivalent, or serve as a collaborative tool for humans rather than completely replacing them.

The jobs artificial intelligence will create

One of the difficulties in forecasting the kinds of jobs AI will create is predicting the long-term effects of new technology. In theory, the internet was designed to make the world more connected, but studies have found, for the majority, it’s made us lonelier and diminished the size of our local network

The widespread implementation of ATMs, which automate bank tellers roles, have actually created more bank teller jobs. It seems counter-intuitive, but actually, ATMs lowered the cost of operating bank branches, so banks opened more branches which created more teller jobs

Some of the fastest growing jobs at the moment are data analysts, software developers and social media specialists. Our increasing use of software in our personal and work lives perfectly matches the demand for software developers. Social media experts are mirrored in the rise of social media as both a personal and business tool, with 2.7 billion users on Facebook and 330 million monthly users on Twitter. All of this creates a massive amount of data that needs to be analysed, hence the increasing demand for data analysts. 

These are all specialised roles though which take years of training so aren’t the most accessible for workers whose roles are replaced by AI. So, what kind of roles will potentially be created that displaced workers will be able to transition into? 

One estimation is that many created roles will involve ethical checking. AI is efficient, but it doesn’t have a moral compass. A role, like an Ethical Sourcing Officer, would work at large companies to ensure ethics are actually being practiced. Accenture estimates new applications of AI-human collaboration could boost employment by 10%.

Cognizant also believes new roles will be created based on human connectivity. They put together a faux ad for a “Walker/Talker” for what they thought this type of job would look like in the future. “In this technology-rich era, A.I. and automation are performing more jobs, and people are living longer. As a result, there is a pressing need for both the unemployed and underemployed to find new types of work and for the elderly to have companionship.” 

While AI is rapidly expanding, until it becomes more established, it’s hard to accurately predict just how much it will change the face of our workforce. However, forecasts are positive that AI will create more jobs than it replaces – so for businesses, it is certainly an exciting time to think about growth.