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Don’t panic, WALL-E (probably) isn’t going to steal your job

The emergence of any new technological advancement throughout history has been greeted with apocalyptic hypotheses, perhaps none as formidable as the current potential for a worldwide Artificial Intelligence (AI) takeover. Recent progress in robotics has raised public anxiety over job security – understandable, given that by 2025, it’s predicted over half of all workplace tasks will be completed by machines. However, a survey by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has found the implementation of new technologies could, conversely, create up to 133 million jobs, in comparison to the 75 million susceptible to displacement.

Fear-mongering headlines about the millions of jobs in danger are not wholly unfounded; it’s inevitable that new technology will mechanise repetitive, low-skill jobs in the not-so-distant future, particularly those in retail, manufacturing and transportation. However, by boosting productivity and hence generating wealth to invest, automation should theoretically lead to additional jobs in more human-centric roles, thus shifting the workforce into fresh opportunities instead of obsoletion.

Recent progress in robotics has raised public anxiety over job security – understandable, given that by 2025, it’s predicted over half of all workplace tasks will be completed by machines

This may include retraining to work alongside AI in new types of jobs or deviation into different sectors, such as healthcare and social work, which are difficult to mechanise but remain drastically understaffed in the UK. Emerging careers as a result of further technological development include roles in programming, software and app development, engineering, data analysis, and sales or marketing for tech-based products.

Klaus Schwab, chairman of the WEF, comments that the predicted employment gains are not a “foregone conclusion”; it’s important that the potential for new jobs are realised by using the gains of increased productivity to retrain and educate workers, instead of absorbing the profits and furthering the economic divide. Worryingly, the WFE report, based on a survey of executives representing 15 million employees in 20 economies, found that as of yet only one third actually planned to reskill at-risk workers.

Emerging careers as a result of further technological development include roles in programming, software and app development, engineering, data anjoalysis, and sales or marketing for tech-based products

Disruption, as with all major changes, is unavoidable. The difference between this economic shift and those in post-Industrial Revolution history is the speed of which we’re advancing, very little time has been left to figure out how to evolve society to accommodate these new technologies. To avoid mass unemployment, it’s in the hands of policymakers to create some form of ethical framework to guide the future use of AI in a direction that benefits productivity and workers alike.

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