Adopters of AI are less fearful of jobs threat

While fears seem to abound, a new Gartner survey suggests attitudes towards the emerging technology are far from black and white.
13 November 2018

Those whose employers have adopted AI see it as less of a threat. Source: Shutterstock

Perhaps one of the biggest (at least, most mainstream) discussions around the rise in artificial intelligence is its potential impact of AI on day-to-day jobs.

How will workers in labor-intensive industries like mining, for instance, fare when machines can handle the work in half the time, in worse conditions? What will become of the digital marketer if an AI program can design and orchestrate an entire campaign?

But while fears seem to abound, a new Gartner survey suggests attitudes towards the emerging technology are far from black and white, particularly when it comes to those who are already employing AI technology, and those who have yet to get started.

Carried out in early 2018 among more than 4,000 consumers in the UK and US, the survey found that three-quarters (77 percent) of those working for employers who had yet to launch an artificial intelligence initiative expect the technology to eliminate jobs.

In stark contrast, the same survey found that only 16 percent of those whose employers had adopted AI had seen job reductions, while more than a quarter actually saw an increase.

While it would make sense that the integration of artificial intelligence systems would require additional manpower in the short term, in reality, these systems open up a wealth of new supportive and supplementary roles. Old tasks that have become routine will be the first to be replaced, according to the report, with employees reallocated to much less menial tasks.

“The human is the strongest element in AI,” said Svetlana Sicular, Research Vice President, Gartner. “Newborns need an adult human to survive. AI is no different. The strongest component of AI is the human touch. Artificial intelligence serves human purposes and is developed by people.”

A particularly strong case in point, the healthcare industry is currently the largest in terms of investment in AI-driven startups— the potential here being (quite literally) life-changing. Programs are being developed to interpret patterns in patient data to diagnose illnesses, provide statistical recovery rates and recommend cures— all of which, vitally, can provide healthcare professionals with more time and the ability to prioritize patient treatment.

“Pairing AI with a human creates a new decision-making model in which AI offers new facts and options, but the head remains human, as does the heart,” said Sicular. “Let people identify the most suitable answers among the different ones that AI offers, and use the time freed by AI to create new things.”

Of course, that leaves CIOs with the task of finding those roles that will truly enrich the role of artificial intelligence, and begin preparing their employees for the creative and value-adding jobs of tomorrow.