Battle of the bots – who will rise triumphant?

With PWC estimating that up to 30 per cent of existing UK jobs are susceptible to automation from robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) by the early 2030s – 250,000 in the public sector alone – it’s unsurprising that many workers feel a perpetual question mark surrounding the future of their work.

Even today’s students are feeling the burden, with nearly two thirds believing that more robots in the workplace will make it harder to get a job.

But as the luddites have shown us, it is impossible to fight technological advancement forever. So, what must the government and industry do to help address the evolving nature of work?

A vast number of options have been proposed to help society withstand this rapid evolution. Gerlind Wisskirchen, Vice Chair at the IBA Global Employment Institute, believes that legislation is needed that stipulates quotas of human workers to ensure that traditional working practices aren’t completely turned on their head.

Bill Gates, on the other hand, has advocated a tax on robotics and AI that would help make up for the lost taxes of those workers whose jobs were replaced by automation.

Elon Musk has taken this one step further, due to his belief that eventually all jobs will be replaced, musing that a “universal basic income” will be needed, whereby people are supported by a stipend rather than working for a living.

But what investments can people make now to help weather the approaching storm? A third of students, surveyed by Young Enterprise, believe that the rise in robots in the workplace will encourage students to get ready for the world of work. Soft skills, in particular – such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, creativity and resilience – will prove vital as we increasingly compete in the workforce with robots.

PWC also suggested that in many cases, rather than completely disappearing, the nature of jobs will change – just as Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory so perfectly exemplified with the father who lost his job screwing on toothpaste caps, to then return to a new job fixing the machine that replace him. STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills, in particular, will prove crucial to future industry.

Join Suman Nambiar, Head of AI, Mindtree, and Steven George-Hilley, Director of the Parliament Street Technology Forum, at the Parliament Street Tech Frontier conference on September 9th, to discuss the economic and moral drivers around AI in our society – and how humans can come out on top in the battle of the bots.

For more information and to buy tickets, see more details on Eventbrite.

Kate Baldwin is Comment Editor for Parliament Street

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