Technophobia – The idea that artificial intelligence (AI) will become evil and take control. It has been embedded in pop culture for decades. From the antagonist of the Terminator franchise, ‘Skynet’, to ‘HAL 9000’ in 2001: A Space Odyssey, pop culture has not exactly warmed the British public to AI. Now widespread AI is becoming a reality, and it’s facing resistance.
You’ve no doubt heard the scaremongering cloaking AI advancements in a foreboding shadow. AI is taking British jobs. AI will kill the UK economy and increase the rich/poor inequality. AI will take over the world; it’s the end of the human race.
But aside from fanciful dystopian narrative, do any of these fears hold true? AI is new, yes, but is it really as bad for the UK as we’re being led to believe? Niamh Reed from automation specialist Parker Software, investigates whether AI really is likely to kill the UK economy.
Anxiety over artificial intelligence is a modern strain of technophobia. With so many seemingly reputable sources (like Stephen Hawking) declaring AI to be disastrous, unnecessary distress is rife amongst the general public.
There’s no room for technophobia and this must stop. There is no denying that AI will change the nature of the job market, but it will not destroy it. We’re not even close to reaching a stage where AI could run our businesses and induce mass redundancy. Nor do UK leaders want this future.
At present, in fact, the UK is preparing to “forge a distinctive role for itself as a pioneer in ethical AI.” And if the numbers are anything to go by, AI will prove to be a major boon for British business, unlocking the heightened productivity that stems from human-bot symbiosis.
Reality of AI
AI isn’t all robots replacing humans and cyborgs sent to kill. More commonly, AI is a tool designed to help humans work more efficiently, like your CRM tool, your live chat software, and your business process automation. Far from taking over jobs, artificial intelligence is helping jobs evolve. Technophobia is redundant.
In fact, few occupations are fully automatable, but 60% of all occupations have at least 30% technically automatable activities. This means that AI can alleviate tedious and repetitive tasks – but not replace us altogether.
You need only look at the failure of Fabio – the Pepper robot recently sacked from a British supermarket for scaring customers – to see that robots aren’t ready to supplant us all from our roles. Instead, AI in the workplace is great for helping with the repetitive, the manual and the mundane. It’s instrumental in freeing up the average UK employee’s time for more important tasks.
“They took our jobs”
It’s true that AI will eliminate the need for some tasks to be performed manually. But it doesn’t necessarily follow that it will strangle jobs and economic growth in the UK.
AI is much less tuned to dealing with relationships or anything that needs empathy. A robot will not be capable of calming an angry customer, or thinking around unique problems, or relaxing a frightened child in hospital.
No matter the job, there will always be levels of it that are simply much better suited to human employees. In other words, no matter how clever AI grows to be, there will always be room for human flexibility, reasoning and empathy in the workplace.
It’s already here
If you need evidence that AI is a help to British productivity, you need look no further than the AI already peppering our lives. Our smartphones carry an AI assistant and our homes hold conversational AI agents that help us with a plethora of tasks. We chat with AI chatbots when we reach out to businesses online, and at work, AI is starting to help us analyse data and create a better class of jobs.
Artificial intelligence is supporting jobs in every industry. In offices, it’s automating tedious data entry and admin tasks, freeing up employees to tackle the truly important stuff. Customer service is seeing AI improve personalisation and ease of business interactions. In production, AI is automating the more dangerous manual tasks that require little thought, while being supported by human teams from a safer location.
Artificially intelligent future
Used correctly, AI will continue to improve working life. It will refine our jobs into ones with high human contact, high creativity, and low tedium. The smart offices of the future will blend human management and empathy with AI-infused insight, and we will see a new class of jobs created as this assimilated future unfolds. The future of AI is not insular but integrated.
Plus, AI will deliver substantial productivity gains. This increased productivity means that AI is likely to cause the production costs of goods and services to decrease — meaning lower prices, more income and more money freed up to be invested in British assets like the NHS. In fact, for the UK and its growth and aging population challenges, AI could provide an opportunity to create meaningful work while increasing GDP.
Embrace AI evolution
AI is here, and it’s becoming more prevalent across British business. It might become more intelligent than us, it might radically change the kinds of jobs that us humans do. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to kill our economy. On the contrary, it might just be the saving grace we need. We rely on AI already without the fear, and without our economy suffering. Why should the future be any different?
Humans are, and always will be, an essential part of the AI journey that we in Britain are just beginning. Both technology experts and elected officials have a responsibility to quell the dystopian fears surrounding AI, and focus on the opportunities it can create. By embracing the evolution that AI is facilitating, we can meet a more efficient future with open arms.