Will AI take my job?

06 November 2018

Question

Will AI take my job?

Answer

Frankie asked whether artificial intelligence could take her job, and Chris Smith put this question to Tim Revell from the New Scientist...

Tim - I guess it depends what Frankie does. It also depends on who you ask. One very famous study that looked into what jobs will be automated in the future came from the University of Oxford and they reckoned that about half of all jobs in the US and a third in the UK were at high risk of automation. Basically the job would be given to a robot at some point in the following 20 years. But since then, that study has been questioned a lot and a lot of people say it's actually lower.

It's really really hard to know what's actually going to happen in the future but I think there are some examples from history to look at. And one of the things people talk about is, “will robots actually create more jobs than they take?”. The famous example of this is the job of a bank teller, someone who you talk to at a bank to help you with your banking. Many years ago the ATM was invented and people said well that we have no need for bank tellers anymore because you go to a machine and it gives you your money and tells your balance, why would you need a person anymore?

But what happened in the next 20 years was actually it became so much cheaper to open a bank because most of the work happened at the ATM machine, that more banks were opened. And after 20 years there were more bank tellers after the invention of the ATM than there were before. some people are suggesting that automation in its current wave will have the same effect. Lots of jobs will become automated, but people will then get extra jobs on the back of that and the sort of more manual or less interesting parts of the job will be automated away. But the short answer, is we just don’t know yet.

Chris - It’s a worrying time really isn't it? Do you think scientists will always have a job though?

Tim - Asking me for a friend Chris?

Chris - I would think also maybe journalists as well because asking the hard questions and conveying it in a way that you think people are going to be interested in it, I think that’s going to be quite a tough act to match, isn’t it?

Tim - Definitely. But there are aspects of this that are already being automated. In terms of journalism, there are AIs that will look at academic papers and write them in short summaries. That’s almost my job currently. There are loads and loads of aspects of it. There are also AIs that look at, for example, social media and make a story out of that, which many journalists also make a living. I think no one is completely safe but there will be new things for us to do and perhaps the mundane aspects will be automated away, hopefully.

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