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Annual Artificial Intelligence conference. Are jobs under threat?

One of the UK's leading providers of payday loans, 247Moneybox.com has held its annual Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI) conference. The aim of the internal conference was to stimulate conversation, facilitate the sharing of ideas as well as make predictions about where this new technology is going. A hot topic discussed was how AI is being used at an increasing rate throughout many industries replacing old technologies. Below is an extract from one of the sessions.

Picture of a toy robot

Newly developed robots and software are already capable of performing basic tasks, as they steadily improve and expand their abilities. This has people speculating about the future of their jobs, as they fear to be replaced by one of these rapidly developing machines. Are their jobs really under threat?

We are already observing some of these changes in our daily lives. For example, train tickets can now be purchased from automated machines rather than having to stand in a queue to buy them from a person sitting in a booth at the station. Some factory processes have also been automated and are now performed by robots, resulting in the redundancy of some workers. Since most communication nowadays is being done through emails and direct messaging, another group facing less demand for their services are postal workers. Fewer letters are mailed, subscriptions to magazines and newspapers are not as common, and despite there being a drastic increase of online shopping orders, these are often handled by online retailers whom have their own direct delivery systems.

Some jobs are more easily replaced by AI than others, primarily roles involving predictive and repetitive manual work, as well as professions in which the collection and processing of data plays a big part. These include assembly line work in factories, bookkeeping, market research, and administrative work in general. Research in many contexts can now be conducted more efficiently by computers compared to humans, such as what fact-finding lawyers would do in preparation for a case, or journalists when gathering information for a new story. Not only does this mean that employers save money by reducing personnel costs, but the element of human error is eliminated which provides a more accurate and complete sets of results.

Other professions are being slowly replaced by online services, as they allow individuals to perform many tasks on their own as opposed to paying someone else to do them. Travel agents, for example, are less in demand than they used to be. This is because individuals can easily book flights and hotels via the internet without the need to contact a travel agent and pay agency fees. In a similar manner, most people now prefer to stream content like music, shows or films online instead of turning on the TV or radio. The result - fewer presenters are needed as the number of audience members diminishes.

Computers can find some tasks challenging that are easily performed by humans (such as folding a towel), and humans struggle to complete tasks that computers can easily execute. This has the consequence that jobs requiring innate human skills are most likely be the last ones to be replaced by machines. Examples include chefs, care workers, plumbers, and artists. Unpredictability, empathy and creativity are more difficult to replicate using software than basic repetitive processes, and therefore in the world of today, humans are still needed to complete such jobs.

It is still worth considering the benefits of integrating computers into the workplace as they allow humans to focus on the more complex and challenging aspects of their jobs. The support of machines can also increase productivity as well as perform tasks that humans may be unable to execute without the help of technology.

So, while some tasks can be entirely handled by computers making humans redundant, the focus of employers should not be entirely on this aspect of AI. Instead employers should consider how to combine these two kinds of workforce in a way that increases productivity, improves services, and enables their business to operate at a more efficient level. It is an opportunity to train employees to perform new tasks and handle novel technology, thereby shifting and changing jobs instead of eliminating them. The skills employees currently have are still relevant, they just need to evolve to adapt to the developments of AI. Employees also have the advantage of being able to identify which aspects of their jobs might be suited to that of a computer, as they have inside knowledge needed to make such observations.

Furthermore, we will see an increasing number of new jobs in the future as more and more skilled individuals will be needed to develop innovative software and handle machines and programmes at every step of the development process. After all someone has to come up with the ideas that eventually lead to such innovations. Without this human element, AI would not be possible at all, meaning creativity remains of great importance.

AI poses challenges to individuals and businesses, but also offers the potential of making our work and personal lives easier in many ways. It is important to find the right balance and integrate what we already know and do with these new opportunities to create a better future for everyone.