Rise of the robots

BY Richard Summerfield

Automation is coming. Recent reports have suggested that millions of people around the world will be impacted by the wave of automation and other new technologies which are currently emerging.

A new report from PwC – 'Will robots really steal our jobs?' – suggests that while the financial services industry in particular could be vulnerable to automation in the short term, a variety of industries, including those in the transport space, are much more vulnerable in the longer term in the UK. Less well educated workers, too, will be increasingly susceptible to replacement. Female workers are also more likely to be replaced than their male counterparts.

PwC has identified three distinct waves of automation which will impact the global economy up to 2030: the algorithm wave, the augmentation wave and the autonomy wave.

The algorithm wave is already underway and will last until the early 2020s. It involves automating structured data analysis and simple digital tasks, such as credit scoring. This wave could see just 2-3 percent of UK employees affected – 4 percent of women and 1 percent of men.

The augmentation wave, which centres on the automation of repeatable tasks and exchanging information, as well as further development of aerial drones, robots in warehouses and semi-autonomous vehicles, could impact 20 percent of UK jobs – 23 percent of women and 17 percent of men. This wave will last until the late 2020s.

The third wave, the autonomy wave, suggests that AI will have developed to the point that it will be able to analyse data from multiple sources, make decisions and take physical actions with little or no human input. This wave will last until the mid 2030s and could affect 30 percent of the workforce – 26 percent of women and 34 percent of men.

Euan Cameron, UK Artificial Intelligence leader at PwC, said: “Our research shows that the impact from automation and AI will be felt in waves, with more routine and data tasks hit first. But just because businesses and people aren’t feeling the impacts right now, there is no excuse not to start planning for the future. AI technology is getting more sophisticated every day and businesses need to understand how, where and when their people are likely to be affected in the future. Those that understand the risks and opportunities can start upskilling their people and adapting their businesses, rather than simply reacting when it’s too late.”

Automation is expected to be a boon for the economy, however. PwC believes it could contribute as much as 10 percent to UK GDP and 14 percent to global GDP by 2030.

Report: Will robots really steal our jobs?

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