A quick look at popular culture reveals an obsession with doomsday scenarios. These scenarios often include robots, occasionally helpful robots, but usually highly intelligent ones poised to take over the world. It’s no wonder then that Pew Research found that 72% of Americans express worry about prospects of AI and automation. But are the robots really coming to take our jobs? Or are they another step towards achieving our maximum potential?
The general consensus – in terms of the future of automation – is that there needs to be an emphasis on education and training. It’s important that those working in sectors under the looming threat of automation become familiar with the ways in which automation could work. Germany is looking to lead the way, stressing the need for workers to spend time training in mechanics, engineering and keep in mind ways to innovate and adapt to the approaching cold and unfeeling workforce.
As smart as the people making them are, robots are still quite clumsy. Our current workplaces have been designed over hundreds of years for humans, so robots may find it hard to adjust to sudden changes in environment, precise motor control and other unexpected stimuli. For this reason, many analysts and tech figureheads say that it’s not a case of robots vs workers, but robots AND workers.
There are many gaps in robots’ skill sets that - as of yet - cannot be accounted for. Therefore, it’s important that human workers are present to fill the gaps. Robots may be excellent at repetitive tasks and chores, but they’re not so excellent at precise and exact jobs (such as building IKEA furniture!). Workers at all levels will have to lead the way in helping the integration of AI and automation in the workplace.
So where does this leave IT? As previously mentioned, robots are big fans of repetitive and less skill intensive jobs. AI could potentially take over diagnosing regular system warnings, become integrated and automated with existing interfaces like OWA and perhaps even take and log support calls automatically.
This kind of speculation is echoed in India, where heads of IT are preparing for huge employment cuts. DD Mishra of Gartner suggests that only “30% of the workforce will remain relevant” which seems to imply that almost three million workers could be made redundant by automation. Is automation going to cause less skill intensive IT jobs to disappear? As a result, will IT become a less accessible industry?
Automation, it’s not a question of if it’s coming, but when. PWC UK raises three important timeframes, with the latest (mid 2030s) showing giant growth in the utilisation of automation. By then, it’s forecast that 30% of jobs in the UK will be automated. It’s important that before then IT sector focuses on training their employees, engaging them with future innovations, ensuring entry level jobs remain accessible and – most importantly - looks forward to handing over repetitive tasks to Wall-E.