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Will robots really take our jobs?

On January 23rd 1812, a group of artisans stormed in a textile workshop in Nottingham (UK). Armed with hammers, they smashed the knitting machines that could produce goods 100 times faster than by hand. Most of them were arrested, sentenced to death and hanged at York Castle. They were Luddites, a movement of highly skilled textile artisans that in early XIX century were protesting against the increasing use of machines operated by unskilled workers.

The fear of machines taking our jobs is nothing new; and we can see the exact same thing happening now amplified by Hollywood movies, which generate a rather negative aura around robots. However, Artificial Intelligence is already bringing huge growth from the new types of goods, services and innovations that this technology enables. Indeed, Gartner [1] estimates that AI will generate $2.9 trillion in business value in 2021.

Does it mean that our jobs will be safe? Not at all. Artificial Intelligence will definitely take many of our jobs - 75 million by 2022 according to the World Economic Forum [2]. However, in the same period WEF estimates that 133 million new jobs being created - so there will be a net increase in employment. The mid-term expectation is that most of the repetitive, low-demanding jobs will be gradually taken by machines, while more meaningful jobs that require our unique human skills will arise.

In other words, we won't have a jobs issue but a skills issue, and we have to figure out how we can prepare for these new jobs. We don't have much time, though: by 2022, 54% of the employees will require significant reskilling [2]. There won't be a finish line. Workers will need to change their mindsets and keep upskilling and reskilling throughout their lives. The biggest challenge for policy-makers, businesses and individuals is the societal move towards agile life-long learning.

What will be the most demanded skills by 2022? Analytical thinking, active learning, creativity, tech design, programming, critical thinking, complex problem-solving and leadership.

These transformations, if managed poorly, could widen gaps in society and create greater inequality. However, if they are managed wisely, they could lead to a new age of meaningful jobs and better quality of life

[1] https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-08-05-gartner-says-ai-augmentation-will-create-2point9-trillion-of-business-value-in-2021
[2] http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2018.pdf