International Finance

Artificial intelligence poses great ‘threat’ to manual jobs

artificial intelligence, chief economist of Bank of England, Bank of England, Andy Haldane, AI, Infosys Consulting, Global Head of AI & Automation
"This is the dark side of technological revolutions and that dark-side has always been there," says Andy Haldane, chief economist of Bank of England

The chief economist of Bank of England, Andy Haldane alerted that the UK will need to avoid “large swathes” of people becoming “technologically unemployed” as a result of using artificial intelligence across industries. Haldane said: “Each of those [industrial revolutions] had a wrenching and lengthy impact on the jobs market, on the lives and livelihoods of large swathes of society,” Mr Haldane told me for the Today Programme.

“Jobs were effectively taken by machines of various types, there was a hollowing out of the jobs market, and that left a lot of people for a lengthy period out of work and struggling to make a living.

“That heightened social tensions, it heightened financial tensions, it led to a rise in inequality.

“That hollowing out is going to be potentially on a much greater scale in the future, when we have machines both thinking and doing—replacing both the cognitive and the technical skills of humans.”

Deploying artificial intelligence will bring challenges that equate its benefits in terms of productivity and efficiency. Manual jobs in particular pose for greater threat. However, jobs that require human interaction and face-to-face communication will continue to expand in the business.

On the bright side, John Gikopoulos, Global Head of AI & Automation and Partner, Infosys Consulting has a different viewpoint on engaging jobs with AI: “The arrival of AI certainly isn’t doom and gloom—we’re already seeing that humans’ job roles are changing. Jobs are becoming less ‘functionary’ and more ‘visionary’: while automation and AI will perform tasks of ever-increasing complexity, humans will be needed to guide them, match capabilities to business strategy, and provide the vision for the future.”

“Many organisations are already delegating repetitive tasks to machines, while introducing new roles for humans that focus on creativity and communication. The next step is using AI as an opportunity for humans to move up the value chain and be rid of mundane jobs altogether.

“To combat the threat posed by automation, business leaders need to do more. It’s not enough just to understand the different technologies on the table; they should also understand what tech can do for their business, their customers, and crucially, their employees. That requires a shift in culture as much as it does the acquisition of new skills.

“With the threat of AI ever-present, some question if we’ve got the skills conversation wrong. We are often fixated on core technical skills; from coding to advanced topics like data science and machine learning. But have we lost sight of the softer skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and applying insight to business strategy? AI can find facts and can even recommend prescriptive or proscriptive actions—but what it can’t do is formulate a watertight strategy based on the insights it discovers.

“We want business leaders to foster an atmosphere of experimentation and innovation, and constantly question how they can deploy smart technologies such as AI to solve today’s challenges. One thing is clear: the key to working alongside AI is doing so for the greater good of everyone—without threatening livelihoods.”

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