The impact of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) on jobs is a hot topic this week.
In Northern Ireland, a study by the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) concluded that 58% of jobs are at risk of “substantial change” due to advances in AI, robotics and other technologies.
The report highlighted a re-emergence of ‘automation anxiety’ and concerns about the future of work.
However, it also asserted that “while automation may destroy some jobs, an equal or greater number of jobs will likely be created in the aftermath.”
Nice use of “likely”.
In India, The News Minute reported on a keynote speech by the country’s Telecom Secretary, Aruna Sundararajan.
“Adoption of digital technology has proved to be a great democratiser and leveller,” she said. “But digital is also throwing up many challenges and there are no easy answers to them.
“There are various estimates about the rate at which jobs are becoming irrelevant – from 10% to a high of 70%.”
Sundararajan suggested that a universal basic income could be part of the solution.
“The idea of providing universal basic income is gaining ground because a lot of Silicon Valley leaders are pushing for it,” she said.
In the UK, research by MoneySuperMarket found that automation of driving jobs could trigger large-scale redundancies by as early as 2023.
Seán Kemple, director of sales at Close Brothers Motor Finance, noted: “The courier service industry is already anticipating huge changes, particularly for last-mile delivery, and not much further down the line the taxi industry is likely to change too.”
One reassuring point which cropped up in the University of Michigan’s Self-Driving Cars Teach-Out was the continuing need for humans in roles variously described as operators, attendants, concierges or guides.
This dovetails with a recent Opinium survey for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which found that 77% believe driverless vehicles in the UK should have someone ready to take the wheel.
Ben Lawson, vice president of mobility and project development at Enterprise Rent-A-Car UK, said: “There are many elements that will determine when driverless cars become mainstream including the technology itself, consumer attitudes, affordability and public policy.”
Something akin to the long-running argument about the need for train guards seems – to coin a phrase – likely.