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Tuesday 20 August 2019
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The impact of artificial intelligence and automation on traditional jobs

Over the last years, we have seen the rise of emerging technologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and robots, automating many jobs, which have been previously undertaken by many unskilled and semi-skilled employees. However, little has been done to ensure that there will be a replacement for jobs that are likely to be automated by machines. This article examines the impact automation will have on labour markets and how it will affect policies. Furthermore, the article highlights new opportunities for developing nations to replace jobs that will be taken by robots.
 
The increasing use of computers, machines, robots and artificial intelligence imply that most if not all routine and repetitive work will automated, which may result in a loss of jobs. Nevertheless, we have seen huge investments in artificial intelligence (AI), due to the vast benefits that AI may have especially in alleviating curable diseases and poverty.
 
Strong evidence suggests that the rise of artificial intelligence and robots will greatly affect many casual jobs. This is because robots and machines are capable of performing work much cheaper and faster than human beings. The use of robots is appealing to many employers because it challenges traditional employees’ benefits such as retirement packages and medical aid. Employers will not need to pay these benefits if they employ robots, yet will get work done.
 
Although many view robotics as a trend of the future, automation technologies and techniques are being applied in many industries today, from critical control systems, unmanned vehicles, household chores to service sectors. Moreover, these technologies are increasingly becoming cheaper, efficient and more available, creating new applications in many sectors of the economy.
 
There are divergent views on the actual impact automation; machine learning and robotics will have on the labour markets and workforce. With some experts warning that 50% of the current semi-skilled and unskilled jobs will be lost. They also claim that increasing automation will drastically reduce the middle class, thus increase inequality, destabilise labour markets and lead to political turmoil. And it is not only jobs that will be lost, artificial intelligence may also increase crimes especially cybercrimes if they fall in the wrong hands.
 
On the other hand, proponents of these trends argue that robotics and artificial intelligence will have positive impact on labour markets, as it will create new highly skilled and paying jobs for those who will be maintaining, creating and programming the robots.
 
Despite the diverse and divergent views on whether AI and robotics will create jobs or lead to displacements of jobs, one thing that is clear that these technological advancements will bring about is convenience and providing better experiences for customers. This is already evident in intelligent self-driving cars that enable you to move from point A to point B without touching the steering wheel.
 
In Japan, where the elderly population has increased over the years, robots are being used to help serve old people as servants in houses; helping with cleaning, providing company and doing other household chores.
 
Soon robotics will become popular in restaurants, replacing angry and incompetent waiters/waitress. These will not just be normal robots that will prepare or deliver food but will be embedded with intelligence enabling them to recognise the client, therefore provide customised services to clients. For example, when you come in the restaurant, without telling it your name, the robot will use image recognition techniques to identify you and subsequently know what you like and how you like. And it is humans who will embed intelligence in these robots; hence no doubt new jobs will be created.
 
Robotics and artificial intelligence are here to stay, and will continue to transform our lives. Like it has always done, technology will continue to create more jobs. However, these jobs will require certain skills, which require personnel to understand how computers and machines operate.
 
Though, the robots we create have the potential to become more intelligent than us, posing the fear that they can rebel against us. It is also my view, that when people lose jobs to machines, they will be pushed to become more creative thus become entrepreneurs and risk-takers.
 
*Lameck Mbangula Amugongo is country Ambassador of 1 Billion Africa in Namibia. He holds B.IT: Software Engineering, B.Hons: Software Development (Cum Laude) and currently pursuing MSc. Computer Science



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