These and many more researches and surveys are highlighting the fear and worries of people in regards to AI eliminating their jobs. However, are we really facing a massive job loss due to AI, automation and robots? Will human skills be obsolete in the future and unemployment rate soar in the long term?
With this blog post, we investigate further into this allegation to understand, how we have weathered industrial changes in the past, how current innovations are impacting meaningful jobs and if the outlook is really as dark as some of these studies predict.
Automation has been here for a long time – a glance back at the past
You might think, the recent rise of AI, automation and robots and the effects on the future of work is a new phenomenon. However, automation has impacted the workforce for centuries. Even before the 18th century and the industrial revolution has automation started to impact the workforce globally.
The first industrial revolution
In 1589 William Lee, an English clergyman and inventor, devised the first stocking frame knitting machine, a first indication of automation. With the improvement of the steam engine at the beginning of the 18th century, the industrial revolution began. Today known as the first industrial revolution, the transition included going from hand production methods to machines. Thus, the transformation led to improved production process especially in the textile industry. This meet the growing demand of clothes worldwide and created more jobs in factories. During these times, jobs have been moved from agriculture to manufacturing.
The second industrial revolution
The second industrial revolution was also known as technological revolution and took place from the late 19th to the early 20th century. During this time significant manufacturing and production technologies, such as electrical power and telephones, have been invented. It was the time where modern business management had been introduced and organizational methods for operating large scale businesses came into use. In this period, the greatest economic growth has been seen in such a short period of time. The increased productivity caused unemployment as labours were displaced by machines.
The third industrial revolution
The third industrial revolution, starting in the middle of the 20th century is called the digital revolution and is marked by the shift from mechanical and analog electronic technology to digital electronics. Advancement in computing led to machine programming and progressive automation. It has been reported, that each additional robot replaced 3.3 workers. However, another study by MIT revealed “…firms that move quickly to use robots tend to add workers to their payroll, while industry job losses are more concentrated in firms that make this change more slowly.”
To conclude, since the beginning of the 19th century, employment in agriculture has decreased while the manufacturing has increased. The employment in the manufacturing industry however has decreased since the middle of the 20th century and the service industry has seen a surge. With this, jobs are not lost per se, but have been shifted and therefore the decline in one sector has been offset by the other sectors increasing employment rate. At the same time, the work provided has become more meaningful with the focus on serving others.
Where are we today – The Fourth Industrial Revolution
Today we are facing the fourth industrial revolution, which is seen as the fundamental change in the way we live, work and relate to one another. While AI and robots keep on replacing jobs, new jobs are created. According to the World Economic Forum: “The rapid evolution could create 133 million new roles in place of the 75 million that will be replaced by 2022.” The question however remains, what kind of jobs will be created and which roles will be replaced.
Required human skills
What has been proven since the introduction of automation is, that jobs, which are highly repetitive, with a clear order of instructions and based on rules, are amongst those, which are most probably replaced by automation, AI and Robots, respectively. On the other hand, jobs and tasks that need creativity, analytical thinking, emotional intelligence and social influence are among those that can’t be replaced. These are relevant skills, which will enable workers and employees to find meaning in their work. With the replacement of repetitive tasks through automation, workers will be enabled to focus on tasks that will have a greater impact on their environment and allow us to create an economy with a focus on the social benefit for all. Automation can only be improved when creativity and analytical thinking is applied, skills a machine cannot reproduce.
Furthermore, the fourth industrial revolution enables a globally connected world. With access to telecommunication and the internet, more people have access to education and work opportunities. Therefore, this will enable people to work remotely and time independent. While in the past, people were forced to relocate to find work, nowadays this no longer holds true. Being able to access employment from anywhere provides opportunities to find work aligned with one’s purpose and creates a meaningful connection to the job. The collaboration and increased diversity provides amazing opportunities to use technology, and thus AI, for good.
Enabling the Future of Work with AI
The Future of Work is based on jobs, that bring value, purpose and meaning to our lives. Enabling people to do that, we need to release them from monotone, repetitive work and allow their creativity to take over. AI is here to stay and to provide freedom to meaningful work.
Still, as more and new jobs are created, it has to be ensured that workers all over the world have access and education to thrive with meaningful work. It is therefore of utmost importance to provide those, who have or will lose their jobs due to automation, the opportunity to re- or up-skill. With this, emphasis is on transferable skills and to allow people to learn on the job and for skills needed at that moment.
To conclude, we believe that Artificial Intelligence will not eliminate your job, but will enable you to find a job that brings meaning to you, your environment and the whole society.