People Acting As Robots Replaced by Robots Acting As People, Where AI Is Creating New Jobs, and Making "Cobots" People-Friendly

September 29, 2017

Three new reports on artificial intelligence deserve CHRO attention—the first in Financial Times, entitled "Deutsche Boss Calls For 'Revolutionary Spirit' as Robots Take Jobs," quotes the bank's chief executive cheerfully describing the "big number" of people likely to lose their jobs as the new technology is embraced.  "In our banks we have people behaving like robots doing mechanical things, tomorrow we're going to have robots behaving like people."  A more hopeful approach is described in a new report by Capgemini Consulting, entitled "Turning AI Into Concrete Value: The Successful Implementers' Toolkit," a survey of nearly 1,000 organizations already implementing AI.  Within its overview of how AI can help a company is a finding that 83 percent of those surveyed see AI creating new job roles.  Sixty-three percent say AI isn't destroying jobs, rather machines are "complementary to humans."  For dangerous career fields such as mining, AI actually attracts employees because they can operate machines in the mines remotely instead of having to enter them.  As one CTO said, "Organizations should not think in terms of how AI displaces their workforces, but how to improve the reach of their workforce."  In that vein, another fascinating piece appears in the Financial Times, "The Impact of Cobots on Workers' Wellbeing."  It reports that as collaborative robots get better at performing tasks, their designers must consider the effects on the humans working alongside them who are finding their level of intelligence hard to judge.  Smiling mouths come off as smirking and condescending, but eyes give a sense of where the machine will go next.  Beyond that, there is another data point uncovered by Capgemini—most of the jobs being created are in the more senior levels of the organization.  Reskilling and upskilling are said to be the answer, but no amount of training will enable someone to match the speed or efficiency of AI.  "There is an inevitability of [one's] inferior ability that accrues," warns a psychologist and career counselor.  Ravin Jesuthasan who leads the future of work research at Willis Towers Watson admonishes, "The big issue with this fourth industrial revolution is that we don’t have the social institutions that are facilitating and enabling the transition."