Dr Helen Beers is the Technical Team Lead for the UK Government’s HSE’s Foresight Centre, and she has published a series of articles for SHP Online, an online news site giving you health-and-safety news. Her fourth article addresses the topic of how artificial intelligence will impact our jobs in the future, giving the readers an insight to the different industries that might be targeted, and who it will affect the most. Will it eventually put people out of work?

Mentioning how in the 16th Century, Elizabeth I was worried that a knitting-machine would put people out of work, Beers explains how the fear of technology depriving us of jobs have always been around. However, in the 21st century, the fear of this happening might be even more evident with commentators saying that the introduction of artificial intelligence could potentially lead to chronic unemployment.

“But, what is the situation today?”, Beers asks. “Some believe that the impact of technology on society is now different from in the past.  This is due to the increased scope and pace of technological change, and the unequal sharing of technological benefits (with only some workers gaining as a result of the change)”.

Beers explains how we the expectation is that we will see three broad types of workplace change. Displacement of people, people losing their current jobs that can be conducted better and more accurately by machines, and the creation of new jobs.

With new sectors, products and services come new jobs which will lead to a new way of interaction between machines and workers, Beers says. She mentions that when making a judgement about to what extent AI could potentially take our jobs, the challenge is appreciating how jobs will change.

It is no longer only the “blue-collar” jobs that are threatened, but the “white-collar” jobs are also at risk as AI is now making their way into areas such as law and finance too. Beers says: “AI is being used by the legal profession to substitute for tasks performed by paralegals, contract and patent lawyers (AI is scanning thousands of legal briefs and precedents to perform document review and to assist in pre-trial research)”.

The likelihood of a large number of medium-skilled jobs disappearing and being replaced by new digital jobs is here, and it is estimated that 35% of UK jobs are at a high risk of automation within the next 10 to 20 years.

The industries most at risk are transport and logistics, office support, sales and services, security guards and cashiers and accountants. So is there any need to start worrying?

According to Beers we need to take these results with a ‘pinch of salt’. She emphasises the importance of acknowledging that any estimate of the impact that AI potentially will have on jobs has its limitations. “For example, calculations may be made from a purely technological view point, without consideration of other factor that may influence change”, Beers says.

It is no longer a question of whether machines will take over repetitive and mundane tasks, but to what extent an person will gain or lose from automation depending on their level of skills and whether they are functioning as a substitute or a complement to the machine.

“Whilst it is challenging to anticipate the types of jobs that will emerge in the future, one characteristic that they will share is that of being significantly more skilled than most of the jobs in the past”, Beers says.

This article was originally found at: http://www.shponline.co.uk/how-will-artificial-intelligence-impact-on-our-jobs/

For the latest news and conversations about AI in business, follow us on Twitterjoin our community on LinkedIn and like us on Facebook