Could you be replaced by a robot?

 
Roll back a few decades and Hollywood was full of futuristic predictions of half-human, half-cyborg characters busting in with all guns blazing, threatening to take over the world. It seems humans nearly always won, in an egotistical representation of our fight for survival, but since then, we’ve seen the roll-out of superfast broadband, and the introduction of supercomputers capable of consuming more data and making more and more accurate predictions.

Now, machine-learning is the next big horizon for businesses to capitalise on!

In recent months, attention has turned to the future threat of robots to the global and UK job markets, with studies considering whether we will face levels of unprecedented unemployment and poverty, as robots provide a cheaper, more efficient, more amenable workforce. An economist article last year even went as far as to suggest the only way to survive the robot-job-market-apoca-lypse (our words, not theirs) would be to revolu-tionise society to exist without income or money, and instead to survive and thrive on the pursuit of the arts and self-enlightenment; an interesting concept for a free-market capitalist society.

According to a study by PwC, more than 10million UK workers are at high risk of being replaced by robots over the next fifteen years, as automation of processes gains traction, representing almost 30% of the current UK workforce. In some sectors, this figure will be as high as 50%, with 2.25 million jobs at risk in wholesale and retailing, 1.2 million in manufacturing, 1.1 million in administration and 950,000 in transport and storage. Quantifiably, the worst affected will be workers who left school with only GCSEs, supporting an argument for lifelong learning and upskilling. Interestingly, the study did not suggest a spate of intense redundancy, but job change; previous advances in digital and labour-saving technologies have been accompanied by job creation and similarly robots could boost productivity in the economy and therefore wealth and cashflow to create additional jobs in areas less susceptible to automation.

Interestingly, not all of the at-risk jobs are those you might predict; financial and insurance advice may be more efficiently predicted and modelled by an AI computer, putting this industry sixth on the danger list, while estate agents are ninth. Human health and social work is also in danger, although it features 17th in the top twenty list, and it is predicted that AI will simply improve efficiencies and reduce human admin, making additional time to support patients better – an improvement for many. Interestingly, the same predictions put 26% of women at risk, compared with 35% of men, due to women’s higher levels of education, and typical pursuit of more human-centric jobs.

Predictions don’t stop there, with news that Tesla CEO Elon Musk has just invested in a company called Neuralink, which seeks to merge the human brain with AI. Their vision is to eventually help human beings merge with software to help keep pace with and take advantage of AI advancements. Applications include advancing memory, or supporting computer-based interface to create efficiencies. Perhaps currently science fiction, but maybe a glimpse of the future when computer chips in the brain may be used to alleviate the symptoms of critical illnesses such as Parkinson’s.

It seems that the best way to reduce the risk of robotic-redundancy, is to upskill and learn talents which are sought-after and fulfil roles which ultimately still yearn for the human touch.

Abi Howell
Truly Tailored Recruitment

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