Five Million Jobs Will Be Lost to AI by 2020 - WEF LABOURMARKET

Cape Times (South Africa), March 22, 2018 | Go to article overview

Five Million Jobs Will Be Lost to AI by 2020 - WEF LABOURMARKET


THE WORLD Economic Forum predicts that five million jobs will be lost by 2020 as the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues to transform labour markets.

Many of the casualties will be repetitive manufacturing and mining tasks and those considered dangerous for humans to perform, but white-collar jobs in banks and other services industries are also under threat.

Robots and artificial intelligence (AI) can do these jobs faster and with greater precision than humans could ever hope to, leading to higher productivity and lower costs - the Holy Grail of business.

A study by Citi and the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford suggests that two-thirds of jobs in South Africa are at risk of being replaced by robots.

We're already seeing South African financial services institutions such as Rand Merchant Bank and Nedbank replace thousands of hours of human labour with robotic process automation, a form of intelligent software automation.

As these jobs disappear, we'll need to manage the transition to a new world carefully, especially in a country such as South Africa, with its rampant unemployment.

The good news is that robotics and AI, like every tech revolution before them, will create new and higher-paid jobs.

We'll still need humans to operate these machines, to programme them and tell them what to do, after all. And the productivity gains they create could be harnessed for the benefit of all.

We'll need humans to create bigger, better robots and to make sense of the data the machines churn out.

The organisation of the future can't operate without humans.

Rather, it will be a safer, more efficient space where machines and AI augment the abilities and skills of humans, to increase output and reduce human error and injury.

Now what?

But where does that leave the rest of us who didn't study robotics and don't know how to code software?

Ironically, we're being forced to be more human, to embrace the skills and attributes that robots can't yet replicate or do better than us.

As more robots enter the workplace, we'll crave face-to-face interaction, authenticity and human connection more than ever. …

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