Jobs vs Smart machines

Artificial intelligence has long been predicted to take over our world whether by force in the Terminator movies or by ignorance such as those depicted in the Matrix. The increasingly complex machinery we find in our time shows that such trends are not without reason. The ‘normality’ of replacing a human with a machine carries a worrying trend for workers. It has been estimated that by 2035, 35 percent of Britain’s jobs alone will be taken over by machines. This means a dearth in labour and a high unemployment rate for all those affected. Low paid and repetitive positions will increasingly become screened out as machines start to take their human counterpart’s place.

Machines can only be as smart as the humans who built them. Their potential depends on the ongoing work and development invested to create and reinvent the wheel. However, until we find a way to give them a true learning capability they will only perform the functions chosen for them. Thus, their ability to grow and create is limited at best. Angus Knowles-Cutler, London senior partner at Deloitte, said: “Technological advances are likely to cause a major shift in the UK labour market in the coming decades… A widening gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is also a risk as lower skill jobs continue to disappear.”

Positions that are under threat are repetitive, clerical and processing roles such as administration, sales, automation, construction, mining, energy and production. In turn the safest roles are those in science, engineering and computing itself. Other roles that involve creativity such as consulting, management, media, arts, law, education, healthcare and financial services are also considered safe. On the bright side, there are always going to be new innovations and new industries that will readily take on workers such as renewable energy. On top of this, machines also have the capability to enhancing roles: fighter pilots, neurosurgeons and data scientists can all generally perform better with machines. The push for higher profits and lower costs means that we all must look to increase our skill set for future opportunities. Employers now look for creativity, entrepreneurship, problem solving and digital know how on top of existing skills.

With the advancement of technology at such a rapid pace, it has been predicted that Australia itself will lose 500,000 jobs because of automation. A recent ABC article also predicts the need for a long term view in terms of engaging in innovative and emerging industries to maintain sustainable jobs where humans can add value regardless of automation. By ignoring the issue, we are certainly contributing to the future consequences that it will have on us including social exclusion, long term unemployment and a lack of purpose while profits may continue to rise higher than ever. Businesses, governments and workers must remain acutely aware of the overall trend in automation to strengthen their position for the future.

Hari Konchada