The march of artificial intelligence has given rise to many fears that it will take away people’s jobs. But while some tasks may well be under threat from AI, there is the potential for other jobs to be created.
Jobs in transportation, logistics and administration are most under threat from AI, as these lend themselves to being automated. But other professions like interpreters and teachers are potentially under threat too. As far back as 2013, an Oxford University study was predicting that half of all jobs could be automated over the next 20 years
Some economists have predicted a future where no one needs to work, but is this likely? Just as AI eliminates some jobs, it will create others. Throughout history, technological change has affected employment. The printing press put the scribes out of work, and the railways hit the canal bargemen and the horse transport business.
But new jobs were created in turn – printing led to a boom in the manufacture of books and newspapers, and the railways ushered in a new era of mass travel. The Luddites smashed textile machinery, yet those machines ultimately led to a rapid expansion of the industry and the creation of many more jobs.
Jobs for the future
So what will the jobs market look like, post AI? Machines can’t yet handle tasks that need complex interactions involving persuasion and negotiation, and they can’t come up with innovative and creative new ideas. Our sales staff, nurses, entrepreneurs, artists and writers are therefore likely to remain human for a while yet.
Similarly, there has been very little reduction in employment as a result of robots being introduced to factories. Indeed, the streamlining of repetitive tasks using robots leads to the need for human workers elsewhere, in areas like quality control and product planning.
Also, there will be jobs created by the need to operate, build and maintain the AI robots themselves. Human customer support teams will be needed when things go wrong, to fit replacement parts or apply the latest updates. There will also be new roles in the AI industry – we’ve already seen this in computing, where jobs like web developer and network administrator didn’t exist just 30 or so years ago. We can therefore expect that as AI becomes mainstream, jobs that we haven’t yet conceived of will come into existence to service it.
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