The March of the Machines – are robots set to take all of our jobs?

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The current wave of technological innovation has many humans running for cover as we brace ourselves for the march of the machines. The emergence of artificial intelligence has left people asking, ‘are robots going to take our jobs?’

The answer; probably not. Well, not for the foreseeable future anyway.

The fear of mass job loss due to technological innovation is nothing new. We can go back as far as 1811 when the Luddites resisted the introduction of automated looms over concern that they’d lose their factory jobs. In 1928 the New York Times ran with the headline ‘March of the Machines Makes Idle Hands’ and in 1930 the phrase ‘technological unemployment’ was coined.

Artificial intelligence doesn’t really exist

We fear the unknown, and many of us struggle to understand the exact meaning of terms like ‘artificial intelligence’. In many ways this fuels paranoia by creating the impression that technology is far more advanced than it is. Artificial intelligence doesn’t really exist and is extremely difficult to achieve. Getting machines to transfer skills from one task to another is a challenge. Organisations like Google are trying to crack it, but with limited success to date.

Machine learning is only as good as the data it consumes

Artificial intelligence is more accurately termed ‘machine learning’. And it’s very unlikely to eat your job unless you’re unlucky enough to have one with a lot of machine-readable data, which can be purely defined by rules. Playing games, interpreting the stock market, writing articles about football, spotting patterns in large, messy data sets, and performing activities in highly structured and predictable environments are all relatively easy for machines to do. Machine learning is only a good as the data that fuels it.

The human touch is difficult to replicate

Having a sensible conversation, negotiating with difficult customers, having a gut feeling about a situation, and being creative about solutions are all things that a human is typically better at than a machine. This is because we can care, show empathy, interpret body language, detect sarcasm, and understand emotion - all qualities that are almost impossible to teach a machine to do.

Machines can help us be better

In-fact, while machines struggle to match some of humanity’s more desirable traits, they can actually help us to be better at them, and at our jobs. Machines can make our work more meaningful by taking away the boring, repetitive tasks. They can free up time to spend on more complex problems, helping us to thinking critically and creatively.

To keep reading about how artificial intelligence can augment humans in the workplace and bring more meaning to our professional lives, download our latest whitepaper here.  

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Joseph Walsh

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