Opinion divided over AI’s impact on jobs

IT decision makers are divided about the impact of disruptive technologies such as AI and automation – the so called ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ – on the labour market, according to new research from BT.

According to a new report from BT, The Future Workplace: How is disruptive technology influencing business decision makers?, a third of IT leaders plan to implement AI and automation in the next two years, in the belief that it will create more jobs within the workplace.

This reflects the view that AI will generate new opportunities for programmers, algorithm designers and software engineers and create new job categories such as AI trainers, ethicists and lawyers.

However, the same proportion predict that these technologies could result in job losses in their organisation, given concerns that innovations in robotics and intelligent computer systems may eventually replace jobs traditionally done by humans, particularly those of a manual, repetitive nature.

Against this uncertainty surrounding the impact of these technologies on the jobs market, the survey of 1,501 IT decision makers across UK organisations of all sizes revealed that AI and automation is already being implemented by over a third of all respondents. For example, one in four organisations are using automation technologies like drones, robots or autonomous vehicles, with almost two thirds (63%) describing AI or automation technologies as being ‘very beneficial’ to their organisations.

Around one in three IT decision makers are planning to invest in AI and automation over the next two years, suggesting that businesses and organisations across the country are gearing up to embrace these technologies in the near future. Of these, 62% believe that their organisations will be more effective as a result.

The UK public sector also appears to be benefitting from the early adoption of disruptive technologies. 95% of organisations that operate within the UK public sector are already using at least one form of disruptive technology, compared with 85% of businesses operating in the private sector. Furthermore, almost half of organisations operating within the pubic sector have implemented big data analysis, while 42% of those operating in the private sector are using this technology to date.

IT security concerns remain one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of AI and automation. 44% of organisations operating within the public sector believe that greater automation will leave their organisation open to cyber-attacks, compared with 28% of those operating in the private sector. Within the private sector, larger organisations are the most concerned about the impact of AI, with 40% identifying as it as the technology they consider to carry the most risk over the next two years.

Colm O’Neill, managing director of major corporates and public sector at BT, said: “This research gives us a fascinating insight into the early adoption of AI, automation and other disruptive technologies in the UK workplace. The findings illustrate the rapid pace of technological change amongst organisations of all types and sizes.

“And while some organisations clearly view disruptive technologies as a potential threat to the labour market, we believe the introduction of new automated technologies and business processes will play to the strengths of both people and machines.”

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