Sharing your work cubicle with robots may not be such a bad thing

New report by Forrester shows AI will create jobs in the future

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Keep calm and carry on; artificial intelligence will not take all our jobs and achieve world domination, according to a report released by Forrester.

Prominent figures including Elon Musk, co-chairman of OpenAI, and Professor Stephen Hawking have publicly warned people about how the advent of AI will cause an existential threat to humankind.

The frenzy around AI has led to groups rallying for future safety measures. Google's DeepMind has even collaborated with Oxford University's Future of Humanity Institute to develop [PDF] an AI "panic button."

Forrester, a technological research and advisory firm, believes the panic is exaggerated, however, and said: "Don't believe the hype – Google AlphaGo's gaming successes and IBM Watson will not usher in a dystopian triumph of machines over humans."

The report investigates the role that AI will play in white-collar jobs in the near future. By interviewing experts from more than 30 AI vendor and user companies, including IBM Watson and IKEA Anna, Forrester has obtained a different outlook compared to many AI alarmists.

Research outlined in The Future Of White-Collar Work: Sharing Your Cubicle With Robots found that enterprise architect firms were not prepared for the "cognitive tipping point" – the point at which artificial intelligence changes the nature of a job and works alongside humans to turn data into "insights and action."

The cognitive tipping point is less ominous than it sounds, however, as Forrester found that only 7 per cent of jobs will be taken by robots by 2025.

Forrester predicts that "cognitive technology" – emerging products from the study of artificial intelligence – will replace 16 per cent of US white-collar "cubicle jobs," but create nine per cent of jobs in the process.

Today, the US workforce is made up of 89 million cubicle workers but is estimated to fall by 12 million between 2016 and 2025.

The worst affected will be those who work in customer service, but for those who work in more professional roles such as "soil scientists or physicians," there is a brighter future ahead. Only 23 per cent of automation technologists believe that cognitive technology will disrupt these jobs in the near future.

Another area that is predicted to resist automation until 2021 is management, business and financial-related jobs, because they require the most "conceptual and abstract thinking."

This is nothing to fear, however, as the "job cannibalization" will bring in other advantages, including freeing humans for "higher-value" work, with more "person-to-person interaction," and creating more jobs in the process.

The revolution will not be a sudden wipe of all jobs, but will occur at a slower rate, with many sectors tapering off the use of robots by the end of 2025.

Forrester notes that the automation of white-collar jobs began over a century ago and accelerated with the rise of computers. They predict that the changing nature of jobs will make even more of an impact on enterprise architecture planning than job loss will. ®

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