Will Artificial Intelligence Really Kill My Job?

10 Jan 2019

5 mins read

Do you fear that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will take away your job? The increase in adoption of AI technologies by businesses, governments and other organisations to stay competitive, grow and stay relevant globally is expected to disrupt the world's labour market in a big way. How does this affect human employees? Dr Sarita Singh, Associate Lecturer, SIM-University Of London Computing Programmes, discusses the likely impact of AI on the future of work.

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AI refers to the science of making machines do things that require intelligence if done by humans. The current decade has seen rapid growth in the field of AI and automation that is swiftly changing the world around us. With Google's AlphaGo defeating the world's number one human Go player to the more recent unveiling of the world's first AI news anchor in China, AI continues to excite, astound and build greater expectations than ever before. From banking and finance, agriculture, education, robotics, automotive and healthcare industries, AI is making its impact felt everywhere (See figure 1). Hence, the current debate is not on whether AI will bring out changes in the way we do things in today's world, but on where the impact of AI will hit hardest.

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Figure 1. Key AI Technologies & Application Trends

In a research report prepared by McKinsey Global Institute, approximately 50% of all work activities globally have the potential to be automated based on currently proven technologies. The research also estimated that six out of 10 current positions (60%) have more than 30% of activities that are technically automatable. In another research conducted by Frost & Sullivan, it is stated that more than 40% highly routine and low-skilled tasks will be automated by 2025-2030 whereas around 61% of the future jobs will require knowledge-based skills.

According to Mr. Srikanth Karra, chief human resource officer at Indian IT services firm Mphasis (2018), tasks that are repetitive in nature are most likely to get displaced. These include jobs of accountants, software testers, medical diagnostic, legal and financial advisory, middlemen, brokers and receptionists amongst others. Banking, automotive and manufacturing industries are likely to be disrupted the most. Healthcare and medical technology sectors may see a lower degree of disruption by AI in comparison. There will be lesser impact on sectors like agriculture, natural sciences and conservation related industries. Teaching as a profession is likely to continue although the mode of delivery will become more digital and immersive.

The future however is not all bleak. According to a report from the leading research firm Gartner, AI is creating more jobs than it destroys. Starting in 2020, AI-related job creation is expected to reach two million net-new jobs by 2025. This will also include some entry level and low-skilled variety jobs. AI implementation is set to complement human jobs. The rise in implementation of AI and chatbots will increase the demand for jobs that involve creativity and artisanal skills. The working environment in the future is expected to be more hybrid in nature with increased symbiosis between humans and AI. Machines will handle the tedious tasks whereas high-skilled jobs will have to be handled by humans.

Jobs that require human interaction, skills that focus on science and technology, creativity and care are at limited risk. The emphasis should be on STEM education programmes which build softer skills such as creativity; focus on lifelong learning programmes for continuous upgradation of skills; and vocational training in working together with robots will help to improve one's employability. Singapore has proactively recognised the importance of AI and is carrying out various initiatives (SkillsFuture, AISingapore, et al.) for AI adoption across the Singapore economy and creating opportunities for AI companies as well as for professionals.

As the noted American writer, futurist and businessman Alvin Toffler has stated, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”. So individuals with high learning quotient (ability to unlearn and acquire high value adding skills), and the ability to adapt to new mental models and applications are more likely to succeed in future.

For more information on SIM-UOL IT & Computer Science programmes click here.

Posted online, 05 December 2017