30 Apr 2018 20:49 IST

Re-skilling can land you a variety of jobs created by AI

By 2020, says Gartner, AI will generate 2.3 million jobs, exceeding the number it will eliminate

The Fourth Industrial Revolution that is currently under way across the globe has — not unlike the first that took place in the 19th century — given rise to a kind of technophobia. People fear they might lose their jobs. The proliferation of automation across industries is driving the anxiety that machines are out to take over our jobs.

The validity of this assumption, however, is doubtful.

AI and jobs: myths and reality

That technological changes have had a great impact on jobs is undeniable. Many of the jobs that exist today, were absent in the past, while many jobs from earlier don’t exist now

For instance, consider online banking and online travel booking. Booking a flight to any part of the world or accommodation at any hotel across the globe can be done easily, even through our smartphones. Today, technology has enabled consumers to do on their own so many things that earlier needed the help of others.

With an internet connection and a smartphone, or a computer, you can open a bank account, get loans and put money into a savings account without having to step into a bank branch. Technology-driven tools and channels have not only simplified access to various services, but also enabled businesses to serve customers better through tools powered by artificial intelligence.

Watershed period

As far as jobs are concerned, a recent Gartner report says the next couple of years, until 2020, will be a watershed period for the global workforce, as artificial intelligence proves to be a positive motivator for job creation. The report states that by 2020, AI will generate 2.3 million jobs, exceeding the 1.8 million that it will eliminate. Also, according to the report, the number of new jobs created — not entirely driven by AI but as a result of its application in various domains — will reach 2 million by 2025.

Most discussions pertaining to technology and jobs tend to be about the implications of AI. A majority of areas where this technology is currently in use, have a lot to do with big data and analytics, and identifying patterns that enable businesses to take important decisions.

Hence, AI has come to play an integral role in business processes, from the recommendation engines of Google, Netflix, and Amazon pushing new information towards consumers, to even more intricate systems involved in areas such as those of data security, financial trading, and fraud detection.

The use of AI-powered systems has also grown in healthcare, be it for creating personalised treatment plans, discovering the right drugs to be administered or timely follow-ups with patients to assess their recovery.

This, however, in no way indicates that doctors will be out of jobs.

More time to create

At present, the scope of automation is largely limited to the more routine and predictable functions, such as collecting and processing data. This means that the more creative tasks, and job roles that require the human touch will be up to us living beings to perform, since automation will take the mundane tasks off our hands. It means we can direct our efforts and intellect towards more important tasks and refined pursuits.

Currently, less than 5 per cent of occupations are entirely automated; and about 60 per cent have at least 30 per cent of tasks that can be automated. It’s extremely likely, then, that humans will continue to lead machines, and dominate jobs that require essential skills such as interpersonal relations, emotional range and complexity, dexterity, and mobility. Reskilling is the key that will unlock the transformative power and potential of AI technology within an organisation.

The importance of reskilling

Education and training at the right stages will play a critical role in preparing a global workforce to deal with the impact of technology. Investing in human capital, to develop skills in employees that are complementary to technology, should be a key strategy for organisations. The current workforce, both employed and unemployed, must have access to opportunities for reskilling and upskilling, while businesses must play an active role in determining the skills their employees need, and provide them with the right training.

According to a survey conducted by Capgemini (among 1,000 organisations), 71 per cent of companies have already initiated reskilling programmes for employees.

Apart from the workforcegaining access to opportunities for lifelong learning, a fundamental overhauling of the K-12 school and higher education systems and curricula too is required. It will ensure that the next generation of professionals is already empowered to capitalise on future opportunities.

(The writer is MD at Imarticus Learning, which offers courses in business analytics and financial services)