Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revolutionized the technology industry by empowering machines with effective ways to replace manual tasks. Organizations of all sizes and industry verticals are pursuing automation – especially those driven by AI – to enhance workforce productivity and maximize profitability.
The breakthrough technology field was formally invented in 1956 – although the background research can be tracked back to late 1930s– for a specific purpose: to empower machines with intelligence to better serve humanity.
However, improvements in technology, intelligence and their ability to replicate human actions raises an apparent concern. Many believe that Artificial Intelligence will develop to a point where machines will take over our jobs and unemployment will rise exponentially.
In order to explore the possibilities of AI replacing the human workforce, we need to evaluate how technology advancements impact the employment industry.
Jobs That AI Will Replace
A recent study conducted by the World Economic Forum finds that in the near future, the growth and development of AI technologies will disrupt the employment industry and take away several jobs from humans, but alongside, also create unprecedented new job opportunities. Research firm Gartner further confirms the hypothesis of AI creating more jobs than it replaces, by predicting that in 2020, AI will create 2.3 million new jobs while eliminating 1.8 million traditional jobs. Ultimately, employees will be expected to prepare for the gradual transition and learn skills that complement technologies such as AI.
As a non-exhaustive example, the following professions are most likely to be replaced by AI in the near future:
- Telemarketing: Direct phone sales are reducing in popularity in the age of digital advertisements, where businesses can analyze data on potential customers and present targeted ads. AI is paving the way to identify the most viable advertisement targets and making it easier for customers to learn about the most attractive products and services online. As a result, the role of telemarketers is fading away from the picture of direct customer advertisements.
- Customer Support: Many customers reach out to service providers to address basic technical issues or concerns. At the same time, business organizations are continuously challenged to reduce the waiting period that customers have to experience in receiving support. AI bots offer a viable solution to this challenge in several ways, including constant availability, high scalability to serve many customers simultaneously, and quickly finding the right support information needed to solve issues facing the customers. As a result, organizations are leveraging AI bot technologies instead of expanding their workforce to address the growing customer support needs.
- Bookkeeping: AI is the future of accounting, and bookkeeping practices are the first ones to be automated. In fact, a range of accounting software vendors already offer automated data entry, reconciliation and other bookkeeping practices. Unlike the error-prone human element, AI technology lets businesses obtain reliable and accurate accounting information, faster and at lower cost.
- Reception: Technologies such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home have ushered a new age of human-machine interaction that has a strong potential to replace human receptionists. When front-desk receptionists are not available to respond to every customer, or take calls from potential customers, the employers lose business opportunities. On the other hand, AI receptionists offer tailored and intelligent responses to every customer who interacts with the business. Gartner predicts that by the year 2021, 50 percent of the enterprises will spend more on developing AI bots than they invest on traditional mobile app development solutions.
- Sales and Market Research: In today’s digital era, vast volumes of big data containing invaluable sales and market knowledge is generated every day. It’s practically impossible for human individuals to sift through the available data and extract the most useful insights. At the same time, the ability to extract AI-enabled market intelligence can empower organizations to identify key business opportunities that are not otherwise apparent. This makes AI a likely candidate to replace humans for the tasks of sales and market research. It comes as no surprise that big data and business analytics revenue streams are expected to reach the $210 billion mark by the year 2020, according to the research firm IDC.
These professions share common underlying elements that present a high potential for AI to take over. These include repetitiveness, a high focus on manual efforts compared to thought process and intelligence, and perhaps most importantly, the ability for machines to replicate the processes necessary to perform these jobs effectively.
McKinsey classifies these professions under the following categories labeled as “Highly Susceptible” to automation, suggesting a strong potential for replacement through AI:
- Predictable Physical Work: Repetitive manual work in known environments – 78 percent likely to be replaced by automation.
- Data Processing: Repetitive manual tasks in handling data – 69 percent likely to be replaced by automation.
- Data Collection: Repetitive manual tasks to extract and maintain data from different sources – 64 percent likely to be replaced by automation.
In contrast, the jobs least likely to be replaced by automation include those of managing others (7 percent), applying expertise (14 percent), stakeholder interactions (16 percent) and unpredictable physical work (12 percent).
However, it may take a long time for the general human population to embrace the change. How will hotel customers react when AI robotic receptionists cannot offer a personalized response or offer some extra favors? How can AI chat bots deal with frustrated customers and help in identifying the true cause of trouble? How much will it cost for businesses to deploy AI technology to replace low-cost and highly effective human labor?
The concept of AI taking over your jobs is not only concerned with scientific advancements, but also with the social aspects that determine the effectiveness of new technologies in real-world scenarios. While these questions certainly need to be answered, history tells us that we will eventually make way for next-generation technologies such as AI in our lives. We just need to find the sweet-spot and enable efficient use of AI.
Until then, the concept of AI taking over all your jobs and leaving humans unemployed is nothing but a pseudo-scientific misconception.