Whether its Amazon drones putting couriers out of business, AI-powered health checkers diagnosing patients in hospitals, or algorithms at Microsoft providing the perfect recipe for whisky, the growing threat of artificial intelligence (AI) as a global job killer has been a prevailing media story that seems just too good to be false.
But the rhetoric is not supported by most recent studies, which suggest that while skill shifts across all industries will certainly be considerable, net job loss over the next 15 years is likely to be negligible. How? Well, many assumptions imbedded in the “automageddon” narrative are highly questionable: that automation creates few jobs whether short or long term, that whole jobs can be automated, that the technology is perfectible, that organizations can seamlessly and quickly deploy AI, that human thought and action can be replicated, and that it is politically, socially and economically feasible to apply these technologies.
Then there are the macro factors. With ageing populations, productivity gaps and skills shortages predicted across many G20 countries, the real danger might be having too little, rather than too much, labour weighing down on our industries. Ironically, far from taking over, automation will be, most likely, just helping us to cope.