Throughout history, automation has been accompanied by concern for those who will be automated out of a job. Perhaps the most famous example is the protests against the Jacquard Loom, which introduced the punch card to weaving and threatened to automate the work of skilled weavers. The weavers, who wore heavy wooden clogs called sabots, went on strike, giving us the word sabotage.
However, the impact of the Jacquard Loom was not as straightforward as the workers anticipated. Textile prices went down because of reduced production costs, sales increased, the industry boomed, and there was more work for weavers than before.
Automation does not simply replace workers, but it does transform the economy. Some types of work will become obsolete. And workers will require different skill sets to work with automated processes.
The leading drivers of automation in 2019 are not punch cards and weaving machines but artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. As businesses adopt machine learning technologies to streamline and automate many processes, we can expect to see economic changes, the replacement of humans with machines for some tasks, but, just as important, changes in the nature of work and the organizational structures required to support that work.
AI Will Create Jobs
Leading economists expect that automation through AI will create many jobs, but executives must be prepared to take a leading role in supporting their organization through the transition. According to a report from professional services giant PwC, AI will lead to net job creation in healthcare, scientific and technical fields, communication, and the service industry.
The healthcare industry is expected to perform particularly well. Machine learning technologies are likely to be applied in many different areas of the healthcare industry, including robotics, data entry and electronic health record management, diagnostics, logistics and planning, and administration.
Although some job roles will be replaced, machine learning will augment many roles, streamlining processes and allowing healthcare professionals to work more efficiently and produce better outcomes. For the most part, healthcare professionals will work with artificially intelligent systems, not be replaced by them.
The same pattern will be repeated across many industries in which skilled professionals play an important role. Some administrative and organizational roles will be replaced by AI systems, but AI will help healthcare professionals, lawyers, marketers, service providers, and others to focus on the most complex aspects of their job.
It would be wrong to downplay the impact of AI. There will be job losses, particularly in the transport and manufacturing fields. But there will be a net gain in jobs throughout the economy, with sources such as the World Economic Forum estimating that automation will create millions more jobs than it replaces.
As automation and AI become increasingly important, organizations will have to adapt by hiring and training employees who can implement and work with automated systems. The transition will be led by executives with the vision and expertise to take advantage of automation’s potential to generate enhanced competitiveness and new ways of working.
About the Author:
Dean Madison is the president of TD Madison & Associates. The company is founded on the principle of providing a more predictable approach for evaluating the culture, strategic fit and qualifications of potential candidates for key senior level positions within the cable and telecom industries. Follow them on Twitter @TD_Madison.