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AI will not result in catastrophic job losses

AI will not result in catastrophic job losses

May 3, 2018

The arrival of artificial intelligence into businesses and society are not likely to produce anywhere near the number of job losses most people think, a new AI research report says. Instead, AI may help address potential labour shortages and solve looming demographic challenges.

The Artificial Intelligence Forum of New Zealand (AIFNZ) research report released last night says the New Zealand economy is continually creating new jobs while eliminating jobs that are no longer required.

Over the next 40 years more than 10 million jobs will be displaced by normal expected market changes, so even in a worst-case scenario of a million jobs lost to AI over this time, this only represents 10 percent of the total change, the report says.

Even if AI related job elimination were additional to the existing churn, it would be a relatively modest influence, it says.

Every year businesses change the number and type of jobs they need to be successful. When jobs are no longer needed by firms, workers lose their jobs and most find other work suited to their capabilities or re-train.

“A number of sectors have highlighted their aging workforce and the expected risks for society if this is not proactively addressed. Some sectors are reporting an annual decline with more workers retiring, than entering these roles. This is particularly evident in health and education with growing shortages of various healthcare workers and teachers.

“The ability of AI to automate routine tasks may present an opportunity for its use in helping to offset this shrinking labour pool in these and other sectors. The imperative of continued improvement to social services in the face of increasing labour pressures is expected to drive investment into systems to support the remaining workers. It may also mean that workers are able to do more interesting, fulfilling jobs.

“AI has the potential to drive numerous economic benefits across most sectors, from improved labour productivity, more efficient development of products and services, to increased consumer demand.

“Underlying this analysis is the assumption that human labour substituted by AI is reallocated to other productive tasks within each industry, the report says.

“AI has broad applicability across all industries: our research showed that financial services, manufacturing, construction and professional services have the greatest potential to benefit from labour efficiencies from AI. But there are significant opportunities for agriculture, travel and tourism and healthcare as well.

“AI will become an essential enabler of the precision agriculture required to produce higher quality product and increase sustainability to feed the world’s growing population.”

AIFNZ executive director Ben Reid AI adoption will take time.

“Firstly, AI technology must be adopted by businesses, who will then need to identify ways to transform their processes to harness the new capabilities. This will take years for the full potential to be realised.”

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