Workers vs machines. Will AI put you out of a job?

As artificial intelligence develops it's likely swaths of jobs could go and traditionally solid sectors could be disrupted. Car makers are investing heavily in driverless car technology – this seems likely to bode badly for taxi, delivery and lorry drivers. Natural language processing may see call centres being replaced with digital assistants.

Should workers be worried though? Historically revolutions destroy and also create opportunities. Which careers are likely to survive and even benefit from the arrival of AI?

Posted by Martin Cooper on 30th Nov 2016
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Comments (8)

Simone Moore

04 May 2018

Interesting that this conversation started Nov 2016 yet is still highly relevant. It is the topic of many presentations and debates across the globe. It is a human question, but the one phrase that stuck out when I read through the thread was made by Paul Fletcher, "The work of the person is enhanced by the technology, not consumed by it." . From an organisation change perspective, we need to ensure we are providing people with something 'to go to' so that the decision and transition for them is welcomed. Build agility into the way they switch roles, jobs, careers. Provide skills and support that enable our workforce (regardless of industry) to be resilient to change, not resistant.

Mark Smyth-Roberts

20 March 2018

Each industrial revolution has attracted this question. The current fourth industrial revolution is the same. A recent set of research into this topic has suggested that (as was the case for previous revolutions) it is the country and environment least inhibited by previous industrial infrastructures that benefits most. So in the West we either need to proactively create the conditions for change or watch as other less inhibited countries (such as Africa and perhaps the BRIC countries) accelerate past us.

Lewis Ford

23 November 2017

The issue is less with how we as individuals process the changes and more of how businesses and society itself manage the changes. The idea scenario is that manual tasks become automated freeing up the human workforce to be able to think, plan and create but when the efficiency benefits of AI kick in and you then have a machine doing the work of 10 people, what happens to these 10 people? The basic business perspective would be to get rid of the 10 people and save the money from their salaries to directly improve profit. There needs to be a ROI for upskilling staff in order to use their skills elsewhere.

Society has the responsibility to ensure that while the "revolution" is happening there is as small of a negative impact on the conditions of human's lives as possible. Ideas such as Universal Basic Income are a good step towards this to ensure that we don't increase the levels of poverty but there are clear flaws in UBI, so then we need to turn to education to encourage and motivate people to continue on paths of self improvement so that we don't end up with a stagnant workforce.

We will still need highly skilled and educated people to push forward our economy and I feel this is where the real challenge lies. The technology is developing at an incredible rate and society moves a lot slower. How do we prevent the negatives of mass unemployment and accelerate the upskilling process while also giving children the skills they're going to need for the workforce they'll be entering. I don't think our education system is truly delivering this.

Mike Hodgkinson

13 November 2017

Change is inevitable, but is not necessarily something to be feared. I think it's now widely recognised that AI is likely to [continue to] make inroads into traditionally human areas such science, software design, medicine, law etc. but rather than this being a threat, it could be a great opportunity for us to learn and improve.

The difficulty may be more around how we can adapt ourselves to be part of this next revolution instead of being left behind by it and if the likes of Elon Musk and Ray Kurtzweil are right (, then we're in for interesting times indeed!

Richard John Hillier

16 January 2017

I think it very likely there will be job losses coming out of AI / cognitive computing. The big tech companies involved would be well advised to pay attention to the social impacts of what they are doing before the heavier hand of governments starts to intervene. Many (IBM, Facebook, Google, MS) have formed an AI "partnership" that could be the place for giving AI a "social conscience".

Another, related topic, with AI is legal responsibility - for actions taken / not taken on the basis of something learnt or determined through AI. I see the EU has a debate on declaring that a robot could be a "person" (in a legal sense) - perhaps a start.

John Albert Mitchell

12 December 2016

Two-thirds of existing students will be doing jobs in 10 years time that do not currently exist. Conversely, many existing career will be replaced by AI. Professions, such as accounting, law, GPs and IT will be replaced by general AI devices such a IBM's Watson. Construction will become automated and driverless vehicles will remove the need to take a driving test. Lorry, bus and taxi drivers will be out of a job within the coming decade. Making IT good for society will be an interesting challenge.

Paul Fletcher

01 December 2016

Disruption to existing business models is far from a new thing. Professor Clay Christensen from Harvard has been writing about it for many years. I think that talking about machines versus people is part of the story, and I can see the point about drivers. However, I think the more positive angle is in the application of machines / AI with people. An example would be a skilled clinician working with the insight from a super computer like IBM Watson to provide the best diagnosis and treatment for an illness. The work of the person is enhanced by the technology, not consumed by it.

Brian Andrew Runciman

30 November 2016

Recent research said that publicans were one of the jobs safest from automation... start pulling pints! See publicans newspaper: