“Robots are taking our jobs!”

“Robots are taking our jobs!”

Nope. They’re taking away tedious, time-consuming tasks – fear not.

Written by Jack Pearce

Remember that episode of South Park that poked holes at the local residents who were outraged at the ‘future men’ coming back in time to take all of their jobs? The year was 3045; over-population had forced the ‘future men’ back to support their families. A beautiful analogy that was perhaps taking aim at the Mid-West/Southern states who were, by and large, vehemently scared of the threats of immigration. I see the same scaremongering points today – but with regards to robots, more specifically AI and Machine Learning.

Murdoch’s media alarmists will brainwash us to believe that AI is about to take ALL of our jobs, whilst also taking over the world, stealing your partner and making your dog fall in love with them. Don’t believe me? Go on the Daily Mail’s page now, find the tech section, and I’d put at least a fiver on there being more negative stories than positive. Funnily enough, the Daily Mail’s tech twitter account features retweets from their parent account and updates on Apple’s iPad prices… Not really tech news…

I believe technology will save humanity. Hyperbolic, sure, but I truly believe that; my podcast constantly tries to right the wrongs of the media – putting only positive spins on tech stories.

But I’m here to talk about AI and Machine Learning, and how they will not ‘take our jobs’ or start an apocalypse – I effing hope not anyway. That much I can’t promise, but Will Smith is still alive, so he could help us tackle the Robopocalypse if it were to occur… Anyway…

Recruiters within the technology market are having to find a new cluster of candidates who specialise in AI and Machine Learning, the positive irony being that these innovative technologies could actually take away the monotonous parts of their jobs, such as job board/LinkedIn scouring. And that’s what I want to talk about; AI and ML will truly help us, taking away the dull dross of our day jobs. I’m no recruiter, but if I gave the industry one piece of advice it would be to go to as many AI/ML meetups as possible and get talking to potential candidates now, because when the big boys in the private sector realise the true value of AI, they’ll all want it. AI is infamously only being used properly and truly by a tiny collection of businesses, with many only diving into the tech because their competitors are.

However, there are people using AI positively, for the benefit of their employees. Shameless plug #124, but my Tech Talks podcast recently featured an interview with Luminance’s Emily Foges; she states how AI is taking away the grunt work and augmenting human tasks, with regards to combing through legal documentation. The legal sector typically employees junior and young, budding trainee lawyers, who then have to wade through the sludge of legal verbiage to learn or even assist their teams or bosses; back in the ‘50s you’d join a law firm and be on the precipice of a case, learning and experiencing new stuff everyday – alas, this has not been the case for years. So, with AI coming in and taking this ‘robotic, repetitive work’, it actually gives the fresh-faced newbies a chance to learn through experience, or shadow a mentor, rather than performing the classic ‘give it the new starter, it’s dead boring’ tasks. Listen for yourself here: https://www.tech-talks.co.uk/podcasts/emily-foges. Emily is much more eloquent than I am in explaining how AI is enabling progression, not stifling it.

So, if AI and ML can actually enable us to focus on the more interesting parts of our jobs, what is there to worry about? Exactly, nothing (I love answering easy, rhetorical questions). Sure, there could be huge changes in factory work, FMCG delivery etc. but again, we can use AI to aid us, not remove us completely.

We still crave human interaction; people will always want a human relationship. You want your accountant to use MS Excel, but you don’t want your accountant to be MS Excel, even though Excel can perform everything required. Areas likely to be disrupted by AI, such as recruitment, legal and estate agency, will always need a person to person to-and-fro. It makes us feel much more secure to have a person’s interaction at some point, right? We can trust the tech to find us a house, but we wouldn’t want a robot to show us around one… Well, I wouldn’t mind… But I can understand that we still like the human element.

With regards to recruitment, what’s a recruiters least favourite part of the job? Talking to giddy candidates and welcoming clients (the latter perhaps contentious depending on your client…)? Or spending hours labouring through job boards and LinkedIn? I did a quick straw poll with some of the recruiters I work with and they all agreed that they’d rather be chatting to people than browsing countless jobsites. Ah, tech has taken a little bit of a loss there, but it’s ok, it supports this argument! And shows we still crave human interaction, or at least the lovely recruiters at my work do.

If we could utilise AI to take away the tedium, recruiters would have more time to meet clients/candidates face to face, more time to creatively business develop, more time to mentor others – essentially, the extra time they’d get would be entirely beneficial.

We need to consider AI and ML as a supplement to what we’re doing, it will complement our jobs, not take them away. Please, please, please stay away from the negative wall of noise that comes out of the mainstream media – they are after clicks and will lie for the sake of it to whip us into a scared frenzy. If you want positive tech news, I highly recommend UKTN for news – oh, and my podcast

Edited by Joanne Suter