Today, Mark takes on that ongoing tension of artificial intelligence and jobs, looking at how things are looking for jobs in Government administration, healthcare, and education.
Artificial Intelligence and Jobs: The Rise of the Robots Continues
Public sector jobs could be under threat by robots in the next 15 years, according to a new report by The Reform think-tank.
As technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate, the report explains, there is a growing opportunity to improve efficiency to the tune of billions of pounds by engaging robots to undertake certain tasks. The tasks that these bots can undertake, however, may have ramifications for civil servants’ jobs.
The co-author of the report, Alexander Hitchcock, has put this caveat on The Reform’s think-tank:
“Such a rapid advance in the use of technology may seem controversial, and any job losses must be handled sensitively. But the result will be public services that are better, safer, smarter, and more affordable.”
Artificial Intelligence and Jobs in Whitehall and the NHS
By using artificial intelligence, Whitehall could replace 130,000 administrators (around 90% of the current workforce) by 2030, saving the government £2.6 billion a year.
The Reform think-tank goes on to explain that a further 90,000 NHS admin and 24,000 GP reception jobs would be automated in the same way. This would again save the Government around £1.7 billion a year.
Nurses, who are overworked and underpaid, could also be affected by artificial intelligence, but in a potentially beneficial way. 30% of a nurse’s daily tasks could be alleviated through AI, including the collection of information and handing out non-intravenous medication. With less of these tasks to complete, the nurse is therefore freed up to spend more time on direct patient care.
Doctors, too, could find certain aspects of their jobs automated. Machines are leading the way in being more effective at diagnosing cancer and performing routine surgery procedures. This, by no means, puts doctors out of necessity, however. On the contrary, their jobs can be streamlined with the result of more time to spend on patient care, which is all the more necessary in our rapidly growing, and rapidly ageing, population.
Will The Impact Be For Good or Ill?
Reform alludes to the fact that the public sector should grasp the technology, even in the face of its supposed threat to jobs. Long-term, it is anticipated, humans will pick up the work that computers cannot. This allows us to create work that is less mundane, and potentially more creative and engaging, thus improving job satisfaction for many.
Nonetheless, there is something a bit dubious about the suggestions made by the report. It implies that a much more ad-hoc job market could be on the horizon. According to the report, the Uber-style model could help, for example, to meet seasonal demand in organisations like HMRC or supply teachers in primary or secondary schools. Essentially, workers would be reliant on constant monitoring of online platforms to secure short-term work in an overcrowded job market, vying for temping roles and zero-hours contract work. This certainly seems like a substandard solution to what could be a mass unemployment crisis.
So what is the answer? It is now an inevitability that artificial intelligence is coming to almost all industries, some at a faster pace than others. How will we maintain high levels of employment in such a future? Is a universal basic income the answer, or will the artists and creatives be the ones to triumph in a post-work society?
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