As new technology is introduced, there are many who worry about its impact on our current and future lifestyles – particularly when it comes to jobs. It is a current belief that with the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence, many people’s jobs, and therefore their livelihoods, are likely to be lost to automation.
This type of fear isn’t new. In the 19th century, the automated weaving machine was revolutionising the English textiles industry and would contribute to the Industrial Revolution. When manual workers became redundant, it sparked protests at the loss of their vocation.
Automation in the work place is nothing new. Machines have been performing menial tasks on our behalf for years, allowing us to escape the drudgery that accompanies many repetitive jobs. In fact, the International Federation of Robotics states that in manufacturing on average there are now 74 robots per 10,000 employees. That has risen from 66 in 2015.
General Manager of Digital Customer Engagement Solutions at tech firm Nuance, Bernard Louvat, believes that ‘AI is a big threat to low-skilled jobs, no question.’ He also thinks that AI chatbots will oust most call centre staff within a decade. When you consider that a large telecoms company like AT&T employs around 100,000 call centre staff, that’s a lot of people on the dole.
And that’s just one industry. A recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute, a private sector think tank, states that nearly two thirds of all jobs could have at least 30% of their activities automated by 2030.
However, McKinsey also believes that this new technology will also ‘create new occupations that do not exist today, much as technologies in the past have done.’ As the horse gave way to the car, hostlers became mechanics and mechanised manufacturing drove up wages and created more long-term roles than it destroyed. In fact, figures from the World Bank have shown that despite a 2.2 billion rise in population between 1991 and 2017, global unemployment has fallen by 0.3%.
‘It’s an evolution of work’ says Ian Barkin, co-founder of Symphony Ventures, a robotic process automation specialist. As low-skilled jobs are taken on by AI, people will need to learn new skills. ‘This calls on us to focus on up-skilling, Technology can lead to job reductions but it doesn’t have to,’ says Barkin.
Whether or not robotics and AI will leave us all jobless remains to be seen. Current views on the subject are mixed. Increased automation could indeed lead to a loss of some jobs, but at the same time is likely to create many more as new skills are required. Will they balance out? I’ll get my AI assistant to get back to you on that one.
low-skilled job 低技能工作
on the dole （英式表达）靠领取救济金生活
take on 承担（一份工作）
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