Although it’s the stuff of dreams, Artificial Intelligence (AI) also makes many people fearful of losing their jobs. AI could eliminate 7 million jobs by 2020 and only create 2 million, a net loss of 5 million positions in 3 years. Confronted by these figures, should we be alarmed?
This study from Klaus Schwab and Richard Samans, presented during the Davos Economic Forum in January 2016, predicts that the new jobs created will be mainly in the fields of computer design, development and maintenance. According to them, the industrial sector is already highly automated and should not experience major changes, but the tertiary sector, that of services, will be hit hard. Servers, receptionists and clerks will be replaced by robots in the more or less near future.
Professor Arthur Charpentier, who teaches at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Rennes, France, is sceptical about these predictions, however. He believes that all jobs are in the same boat, making it difficult to estimate. “Automation will destroy jobs – I agree with this diagnosis,” he says, “but the number of jobs with a real human need will not stop increasing. I am thinking of support services for the elderly, for example.”
Doina Precup, co-director of McGill University’s Reasoning and Learning Lab, believes that the most endangered jobs are those where there are many repetitive tasks and those where AI can observe the worker’s behaviour and use the data collected to mimic it, such as an accountant. The researcher also believes that jobs that need to take an enormous amount of data into account will be entrusted to AI in the future, since it is better suited to interpret them than the human brain. Accountants, secretaries, radiologists and technicians are therefore threatened, of course, but not all jobs are.
Irreplaceable human contact
Many experts agree on one aspect which will never be replaced by artificial intelligence and robots: human contact. Whether it is the nurse who reassures by caring or the professor that encourages you before an exam, humans continue to seek the contact of their fellows. Kai-Fu Lee, a former Google and Microsoft leader who specializes in artificial intelligence, believes, for example, that humans will always want to hear news about their health status from an oncologist, and not from a machine.
He also predicts that art will always be the prerogative of humans. He believes that AI will create a new generation of workers who will exploit human authenticity, “workers of love”. It is the sense of humour, the insight, the attention of these workers that sets them apart from machines that will replace them in technical and analytical jobs. “Human contact is valued, and I think it will always stay that way,” agrees Professor Arthur Charpentier. Now while jobs in the arts and support relationships were once lower paid and less prestigious, they could be increasingly sought after… due to advances in artificial intelligence.