Artificial intelligence is the watchword of the moment. According to Accenture intelligent machines are set to transform business in ways not seen since the Industrial Revolution, creating huge growth opportunities.
Just last week the UK government published a report on the major social and economic benefits AI could bring to the country – estimating that AI could add an additional £630bn to the UK economy by 2035.
AI brings a vast range of potential benefits to business, enabling software solutions to build up data models and analyse information automatically. This frees up employee time for other innovative and higher value activities.
The increased use of intelligent robots will allow employers to upskill people, giving workers the opportunity to upgrade their skills and free them from the constraints of menial and mundane workplace tasks.
As software, AI can even be incorporated into existing business processes, making them more efficient while lowering costs. It also has the potential to lead to better and more accurate decisions through better use of information.
All this makes it hard to disagree with UK AI report author Professor Wendy Hall that we are likely “to see automation continue to escalate and accelerate in every walk of life.”
Of course, while intelligent computers help reduce the need for people to do tedious manual labour, the flip side is that eventually robots are likely put some of these people out of work.
Whose jobs are at most at risk?
According to a study by researchers at Oxford University and Deloitte, about 35% of jobs in the UK are at high risk of computerisation over the next 20 years.
It is obvious that taxi drivers, factory workers and people who write reports or produce spreadsheets are among those most at risk of automation. The driverless car will eventually become the cab driver’s nemesis while groundwork done by junior white collar workers like spreadsheets can easily be performed quickly and more cheaply by a robot.
Already in China, a factory has automated production lines that use robotic arms to produce mobile phone parts. It has also automated machining equipment and autonomous transport trucks. Production is soaring.
But are those of us who think our human intelligence makes us indispensable really on safe ground?
According to a BBC risk calculator, if your job requires you to negotiate, help or assist others and think innovatively then you can probably breathe a sigh of relief.
Specifically, the calculator reckons there is just a 4% chance of IT and telecoms directors getting their jobs stolen by robots, making it unlikely automation can replace us any time soon.
So, IT Directors – don’t hang up your boots just yet. Like any anticipated revolution, we are uncertain about the speed, scale and impact of what the rise of artificial intelligence will bring. The key is to be prepared for a future where AI is the new normal – and can be embraced and celebrated without fear.