What Impact will AI Have on Businesses & the Workplace?
When science fiction authors and screenwriters envisage the effect of AI on a future world, they tend to go for the more pessimistic viewpoint about computers and/or robots taking over the world. But how accurate is their viewpoint, and how will AI impact the business world?
The report ‘Vodaphone Trends Barometer 2018’ was on the whole optimistic. It recognised there would be profound changes for all industries, but pointed out that companies would have to adapt their business models such as reshaping their transport and delivery systems in order to meet the needs of their customers.
As far as the workplace is concerned, they argued that breakthroughs in AI and machine learning capabilities would be used to complement and enhance – rather than replace – the human workforce. This would enable workers to make better decisions, find customised solutions and improve productivity levels.
A recent report by the Metropolitan Program at Brookings Institution believes that the question about whether advances in AI will be positive or negative was less clear-cut. They argue that the extent to which industries will be affected chiefly depends on their field and the areas of expertise it demands.
It predicted that by the year 2030, a quarter of jobs (representing 36 million American workers) will be extremely vulnerable to automaton and job losses. These jobs included those in production, food preparation, office and administrative support and transport.
Their forecast concluded that another 36% of Americans (or 52 million workers) would face medium-level risks from AI technology while 39% (or 57 million employees) faced a lower level of vulnerability to automaton. The jobs which were less likely to be affected fell into two main groups. The first were jobs which require higher educational qualifications and a degree of creative, technical and/or problem-solving skills. The other group to be immune to the threat of AI were those requiring empathy and social/emotional intelligence such as care workers or those providing domestic services.
The Institution emphasised that job losses weren’t a reason to halt technological advances since they would keep business productivity levels high. However, preparations should be made now. It was imperative that workers in highly-vulnerable industries should be given the practical and educational support to upskill and reskill. Accelerated learning programs and a flexible education were some possibilities that should be established now especially so firms would have access to a workforce with the skills they require.
The researchers at the Brookings Institution also recognised that being replaced by automated machines could lead to financial distress for many workers and their families. A website with information regarding everything about money would only be of limited help without a regular steady income. They therefore recommended that help should be provided on a local, state and federal level with a subsidised employment program plus financial assistance for those displaced workers facing real financial hardships. They also pinpointed regions which would particularly be affected such as the rural belt and major manufacturing urban centers.