Artificial Intelligence: an End to Jobs?

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise. With the invention of devices such as Amazon’s Alexa, self-driving cars, and home systems that can be remotely controlled, AI seems to be the way the world is going. However, this increase in AI products could appear to be reducing the number of jobs needed to perform tasks, but is this the case?

What is artificial intelligence? AIAI is a computer system which senses it’s environment, can think, learn and decide on an action to take as a result of what it has learnt. The programme ‘Humans’ (Channel4) gives a fictional insight into what people hope AI could one day be capable of (without the killing…). With systems such as Alexa, and driverless cars now making decisions as to who to save in an accident, are we far away from a new AI led world?

I know from experience that companies want to automate everything these days, reducing the chance of human error, whilst also speeding up the process they’re trying to achieve. In my field of research, we are aiming to automate drug design to reduce the number of hours spent painstakingly making drugs in the lab that are unlikely to work. But in doing so, are we actually getting rid of valuable chemists? This is the case across most sectors and became evident when supermarkets introduced self-checkout systems, replacing many manned tills. As you know, these systems can be frustrating and there is a long way to go before everything is automated, but are we just creating a jobless world?

A study conducted in 2013 at the University of Oxford predicted that AI will replace ~47% of jobs in the US, including jobs in education, security, manufacturing, legal sectors, medicine and many more. The research concluded that workers would need to be more creative/inventive in their thinking to be in with a chance of a job when AI begins to take over, as AI should still lack the capability of abstract thought (for now…).

A study from 2017 predicted that in just 2 years time, 1.8 million jobs will be eliminated due to AI.augmented ai However, the study also found that 2.3 million more jobs will be created in their place by 2025 through the start of AI augmentation (i.e. the combination of AI and humans working together). A promising report from PwC predicted a growth in GDP of ~10% by 2030, deducing that the higher productivity created from using AI (thought to save up to 6.2 billion working hours!) would mean lower cost of products, and higher spending by the general public. Big business will also save drastically from the use of AI, eliminating human error/the need for as many humans to be employed. But if ~47% of jobs are at risk from AI within the next two years, how will we have enough money to spend on these new products?

AI is the way the world is headed. Luckily, children are starting to learn programming in primary schools from a young age now. This is important, as the new era we appear to be headed into will mean many future jobs are likely to require computer programming knowledge. It is beneficial for the future generations to be able to use computers proficiently enough to code and create new software, but also maintain their innovative minds to ensure they can produce the next big thing. AI is a wonderful tool many of us now use Globally, but have we been blinded with the shiny technology and hidden from the truth that AI is likely to dramatically reduce the number of jobs required in the future? And, should we be making a concerted effort to learn programming ourselves?

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