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  • Writer's pictureStephen Hill

What will our world economies look like once AI systems have taken over most ‘white-collar’ jobs?

The world is changing at a rapid pace. Why that change is so rapid is down to all sorts of factors – industrial and technological evolution, climate change, social media and so on – but we’re now in an era where it seems attitudes range from quiet caution to extreme concern.Two elephants in the room – Brexit in the UK and Europe; Presidential impeachment in the US – notwithstanding, even the most pious optimist would struggle not to spy several dark clouds on the horizon.

Jobs are being lost, due to all this uncertainty and in many case to failing or outdated business practices. The climate change lobby has grown hugely in size and exposure, speaking of far-reaching implications that will shake up and even reset the global economy.

Indeed, millions of jobs are on the line if the aviation industry goes down and if auto manufacturing has to become zero-carbon. This is inevitable unless ways are found to clean them up or at least to fully compensate for the effects of their pollution. The climate emergency, for which the scientific evidence is rapidly becoming inarguable, demands immediate and massive action and it will undoubtedly involve radical re-thinks across the board.

And then there’s the other, perhaps even larger elephant: AI. Many people are fearful of computers taking their jobs, and rightly so – to a point. AI and robotics processes are already making various processes more efficient, from healthcare to HR and so on. AI can already evaluate much medical data better than humans and, for example, provide a second opinion on an x-ray. AI systems can evaluate someone’s suitability for a given job role or project. AI can issue financial advice and evaluate credit ratings.

AI could even be applied to the climate emergency in various ways – identifying or predicting problems and distributing resources accordingly (and let’s not forget the low carbon footprint of AI!).

The quality of the AI results of course depend on the accuracy of the data it is given and the parameters it is told to work within. This is actually good news for the job sector. Until AI systems eventually, inevitably become truly autonomous, human interaction and supervision is essential. Job descriptions and skill requirements will change, but AI’s role in society must be to benefit humanity – not replace it.

The skills taught in our schools and universities are moving with the times. Children these days are learning how to write code as part of the curriculum.

The global economy is already entering a big-deal, meaningful change; there’s no doubt. Radical re-thinking is the order of the day; coming up with a plan that balances the needs of the planet with those of the people inhabiting it is the goal. One can only hope that petty distractions (relatively speaking – such as Brexit or impeachment) do not get in the way..

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