Don’t panic – AI will create more jobs than it eliminates: Gartner

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As we rush ever closer to 2020, analyst firm Gartner predicts that year will represent a major turning point in artificial intelligence (AI)-related employment dynamics.

While fields like manufacturing will be hit hard as AI technology replaces human labour through to 2019, from 2020 AI-related job creation will cross into positive territory, reaching two million net-new jobs in 2025, with healthcare, the public sector and education growing fastest.

“Many significant innovations in the past have been associated with a transition period of temporary job loss, followed by recovery, then business transformation and AI will likely follow this route,” said Svetlana Sicular, research vice president, Gartner.

“Unfortunately, most calamitous warnings of job losses confuse AI with automation – that overshadows the greatest AI benefit – AI augmentation – a combination of human and artificial intelligence, where both complement each other.”

Gartner recommends that IT leaders should focus not only on the projected net increase of jobs when considering investment in AI-enabled technologies, but must also take into consideration what jobs will be lost, created, and how it will transform how workers collaborate with others, make decisions and get work done.

“For the greatest value, focus on augmenting people with AI. Enrich people’s jobs, reimagine old tasks and create new industries. Transform your culture to make it rapidly adaptable to AI-related opportunities or threats,” said Sicular.

Among Gartner’s other predictions on AI’s impact in the workplace are:

1. By 2022, one in five workers engaged in mostly non-routine tasks will rely on AI to do a job.
While AI has been applied to highly repeatable tasks, but applying AI to less routine work that is more varied due to lower repeatability will yield superior benefits.
“Companies are just beginning to seize the opportunity to improve non-routine work through AI by applying it to general-purpose tools. Once knowledge workers incorporate AI into their work processes as a virtual secretary or intern, robo-employees will become a competitive necessity,” said Craig Roth, research vice president, Gartner.

2. Through 2022, multichannel retailer efforts to replace sales associates through AI will prove unsuccessful, although cashier and operational jobs will be disrupted.
Though technology may replace human labour for check-out and other operational activities, retailers will find it difficult to eliminate traditional sales advisers.
“Retailers will be able to make labor savings by eliminating highly repetitive and transactional jobs, but will need to reinvest some of those savings into training associates who can enhance the customer experience,” said Robert Hetu, research director, Gartner. “As such most retailers will come to view AI as a way to augment customer experiences rather than just removing humans from every process.”

3. In 2021, AI augmentation will generate $2.9 trillion in business value and recover 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity.
Industries such as outsourcing will see a fundamental change in business models, where cost savings generated via AI and productivity improvements must be reinvested to allow reinvention and new business model opportunities.
“AI can take on repetitive and mundane tasks, freeing up humans for other activities, but the symbiosis of humans with AI will be more nuanced and will require reinvestment and reinvention instead of simply automating existing practices,” said Mike Rollings, research vice president, Gartner.
“Rather than have a machine replicating the steps that a human performs to reach a particular judgement, the entire decision process can be refactored to use the relative strengths and weaknesses of both machine and human to maximise value generation and redistribute decision-making to increase agility.”

Gartner clients can learn more in the report: ‘Predicts 2018: AI and the Future of Work.’ More analysis on AI is available in the Gartner Special Report, ‘Applying Artificial Intelligence to Drive Business Transformation.’

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