Is Artificial Intelligence a threat to job security?
Will robots take over my job?
The South African government along with private businesses, are embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) policy with gusto, leaving most people a tad stressed about job security.
Will SA’s workforce (or the world’s, for that matter) become redundant now that machines can “think”? This post takes a looks at Artificial Intelligence (AI) and what it means for your career.
The South African Social Attitudes Survey found that:
- 73% of South African adults believe machines or computer programmes will assume many of the jobs currently done by humans within the next 10 years.
- Six out of 10 employees are worried that automation will threaten their job security.
However, not many people fully understand what AI, and more importantly yet, how it is—or will be— applied.
What is AI and Automation?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a technology that can sense, comprehend, act on and learn from its environment. The computing power to achieve AI is still relatively new, (mainstream availability made possible through the cloud.
While the technology has taken great strides in recent years, it’s still far from those apocalyptic movies that spring to mind.
The AI we are talking about can only handle a small number of tasks, languages, inputs and processes. Automation is the other side of the 4IR coin, often mistakenly considered AI, but it is different. Automation refers to software that carries out set instructions to complete repetitive tasks. Between the two, we have technology that can take laborious, time-consuming, and niggly—yet necessary—work off of our hands.
Commercial and industrial Application
Here are a few examples of where we’re seeing AI and automation on business today:
- Customer Relations. AI-powered chatbots can carry out automated tasks like creating profiles for CRM, opening accounts, writing invoices or handling account queries.
- Recruitment. Human resource practitioners are using AI to hire more staff efficiently and without bias.
- Capital markets. The technologies are being used to make split-second decisions on the world’s stock markets with little to no human input. They are infamously referred to as “Algos”, short for algorithms.
A World Wide Worx study found that in 2018, only 6% of South African enterprises were using automation, in 2019 that figure shot up to 37%. The sector with the highest uptake was Legal Services at 67%, handling tasks like searching for legal precedents.
This is something that recent graduates will have to face, a legal sector that can get robots to do mundane tasks. So, the Legal Services sector will shift its skills requirements from new recruits.
So, What Does This Mean For Me?
Sure, AI can replace a few current roles, but there’s good news.
The technology currently available can automate a lot of our job activities, but it can’t do everything.
Don’t look at it as a threat to your job, it’s actually an opportunity for you to do more creative and strategic work.
Think of the mind-numbing tasks you do at work and how much richer your work experience would be if you could focus on the meaty stuff. For example, if you are in sales, you can spend less time inputting invoices, customer profiles or any of that dull administrative stuff and focus on building relationships with said customers.
In McKinsey’s The future of Work South Africa, it recognises that 3.3 million jobs will be displaced or lost due to digitisation and automation by 2030. It further revealed that digitisation and automation could result in the creation of 4.5 million jobs in the same period. That’s a nett gain of 1.2 million jobs due to digitisation and automation.
Key Take Out
The machines free up our time and make it possible to place human resources in roles where their sentience is far more valuable.
AI opens a host of opportunities along with it, things we haven’t yet imagined. With that, humans will be on the other side of the equal sign. Remember that bots still need to be designed, built, and maintained—so coding provides a wealth of job security to those planning their career path.
In conclusion, AI will not take jobs; it will create new employment opportunities in a more efficient and productive environment. Technology is impressive; it is efficient, accurate and effective at so many things, but it is not creative or strategic. Where the robots will fail, humans will thrive. So yes, AI will be able to search for legal precedents, but it can’t win a court case.