Should we fear our jobs from technological takeover?

2019/ 15/08

Utilizing AI and other technologies in business processes is a “double-edged sword”. Deploying new technologies accompanies great responsibility, where the risk is extended to our individual lives, too. But should we fear our jobs and livelihood from technological takeover?

Technological breakthrough is usually associated with great opportunities, on the other hand, the potential for growth is coming with numerous risks, too. One of the most frequently mentioned risk is associated with financial losses and unfair treatment perceived by individuals and results in heightened stress and fears about job security. 

The first step to handle and control unintended consequences of embracing AI or other technologies is to put serious amount of company-wide effort on risk-identification. The mapping technique enables companies to find proper risk-specific controls, which are able to help you in managing risk. This is why we would like to outline the sources of risk and the areas of work that can possibly be replaced by technologies first and afterwards discuss about the ways of embracing technology while operating according to technological social responsibility (TSR) guidelines.

What technologies are able to replace human workforce?

Big data, improved algorithms, raw computing power and artificial intelligence came to the business life bringing tremendous opportunities for growth. The influence of conversion of new technologies is usually discussed among top managers because of its ability to provide more efficient business processes, however, it has an impact on all levels of the organization. Companies, think tanks and research institutions are increasingly dealing with the issue of job losses caused by the technological takeover. The following technological advances are considered as able to replace human work to some extent.

Robotics supporting manpower instead of replacing it

Substituting repetitive, laborious tasks and performing physical jobs, these are the most common ways of robot technology supporting human workforce. Nowadays, several industries are using this technology for enhancing efficiency from retail throughout manufacturing to logistics, and for military purposes, too. Still, the technology is lacking the ability to replace human interaction and it is also struggling with low levels of applied dexterity. As robotics converge with the technology of AI, robots will be able to utilize the power of deep learning for imitating human interaction and to contribute to judgements and decision-making processes. Mentioning only the example of chatbots, virtual agents and intent recognizers as being able to handle complex interactions and processes they are bringing new ways of supporting manpower in customer service. 

Autonomous cars are the solutions for driver-scarcity

As we have discussed about in our previous article, automation provides supply chain companies with several benefits. Utilizing technological advances in forwarding ensures better security of individual drivers and significant costs savings by facilitating the optimization of shipping routes and real-time route planning or rerouting. In addition to its supportive role, technology is able to replace manpower and provide a solution for overcoming the shortage of human truckers.

Utilizing artificial intelligence, deep learning and big data

As it was mentioned before, deep learning technique is taking the exploitation of artificial intelligence to the next level. It means that instead of relying only on predetermined algorithms, AI is capable of acquiring information from different data sources. Based on this information our software will be able to make decisions, to draw conclusions and to learn. However, making use of vast data requires the support of big data. Uncovering interrelation and trends of information using big data technology enables the proper analysis of massive quantities of data thus creating opportunity for imitating human thinking. The next step towards substituting manpower is empowering technology to act like a human. New directions of AI support performing human interaction and certain actions - such as executing transactions, like money transfer - leveraging deep learning and big data techniques.

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What areas of work are the most likely to be replaced by technology?

As discussed before, technology can be utilized not only for substituting simple, repetitive tasks, but also to support activities requiring human interaction and analysing data. According to this, the main areas of work that are in the focus of technological replacement are those jobs, which consist largely of repetitive, routine and manual tasks. These jobs include for instance store clerks, fast food workers, security guards and delivery men. Tasks requiring fast data processing also call for technological assistance, such as tasks of a data analyst, an accountant and a salesperson. Technology is able to replace human activities principally in a controlled environment, where non-repetitive tasks can be mimicked, too. 

If you wish to know how likely your job specifically is to be taken over by technological development, check out on this site.

How to deploy the advantages of new technologies while operating with strong employee base?

Along with the technological breakthrough, concerns regarding robots taking over our sources of income are ever increasing. As it was mentioned before, it cannot be said that the situation described does not make any sense, however, the aim is to maintain a viable business by finding the golden mean between engaging in technological solutions and maintain the trust of our employees.

Adapting guidelines of TSR - incorporating technological transformation into organizational culture

Although digitalization is likely to gain ever increasing significance in business context, training and improving technological solutions, supervision and quality control of outputs generated by technology requires human intervention. Furthermore, jobs calling for human nature and competence - such as the work of artists, software developers and HR managers - would not be performed without the sense of creativity, empathy, interpersonal skills and emotion. 

New technologies open up new areas of work by freeing up money and people to build new careers and thus create higher standards of living. The following questions may arise here: Is technology able to help society as much as it supports business? How is it possible to align business and societal interest in case of engaging in digitalization?

According to the findings of McKinsey and Company enhancing innovation led growth while making technology to work for better lives is viable in case businesses apply a narrower focus on labor substitution and proactively manage the transition throughout the company. Proactive management regards to raising skill levels and involve the entire company in the process of change thus building trust towards the alterations. However, managing alterations proactively driven by innovation is not only about motivating our employees towards transition, but also about ensuring a more fluid labor market. This imperative creates a mutually beneficial situation both for businesses and society, where short-  and medium-term business goals are aligned with longer-term societal intentions. In this case, guidelines of technological social responsibility (TSR) are highlighted, according to which supporting well-being of our employees contributes to the better results of the company through facilitating a smoother process of technology adoption.

Takeaway for businesses

In order to manage the transformation successfully, the following three priorities should be considered.

At first, understanding the essence of proactive change management will not only lead to societal good but also better financial results. Secondly, the attitude of your workforce towards transition should be considered as crucial in succeeding in technology adoption. Since digitalization requires talent being embedded in business processes, proactive workforce management should be taken into consideration as a part of the strategy. Third, cooperation of multiple stakeholders in terms of the realization of technology transition is a tool to boost and spread the word of change. The cooperation of businesses and the public sector is highly valued, mentioning the only example of the importance of educational bodies and talent factories as the facilitators of technological change.

Source: McKinsey, Medium, MIT Technology Review, Vanna, Kiplinger

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