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Rise of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence May Replace 15 Million Skilled Jobs

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As the Bank of England warns that up to 15 million skilled jobs are at risk of automation, a large number of roles that were previously considered to be safe from the “third industrial age” of machine-led disruption are now under threat.

The impact on the UK labour market and its 30 million employees is likely to be significant. Widening of the national skills gap, wage disparity, depression and mass unemployment could see inequalities between the rich and poor deepen. Here is a broad overview as to how artificial intelligence (AI) may replace some of the main skilled jobs in the future:

Scientists

A joint venture between the University of Cambridge and Aberystwyth University has led to the creation of two scientist-robots named Adam and Eve. These machines are able to plan and perform experiments, interpret results, and discover new scientific knowledge.

Eve, which is based at the University of Manchester, is currently making the malaria drug discovery process more efficient and cost-effective. This means that in future the need for human scientists may decline, as robots become increasingly adept at replicating mental processes in addition to manual ones.

Pilots

The recent rise in popularity of both military and commercial drone usage highlights the fact that drones are a far more cost-effective solution than manned aircraft and the associated pilot salaries. As more industries such as aerospace and offshore oil and gas opt to use drones for both routine and complex tasks, the traditional role of the pilot may soon be thrown into jeopardy, with unmanned aircraft becoming the new norm.

Medical practitioners

The role of surgeons and doctors looks set to change drastically, as the next generation of robotic medical technology enters the operating theatre. New inventions such as the Da Vinci Robot and the Cambridge Medical Robotics prototype for a robotic arm capable of performing minimal access surgery have already demonstrated AI’s capabilities.

These technologies may drive down operating costs, increase precision and accuracy, and reduce complications and blood transfusion rates. Furthermore, the IBM Watson computer’s potential for understanding and responding to spoken questions, could even eradicate the future need for doctors to make simple diagnoses and write prescriptions.

Lawyers

One of the most significant elements of a lawyer’s job is human input. It is necessary for building trust and in managing a meaningful business relationship with clients, in order to encourage effective resolutions. Being able to empathise with client situations, exercise balanced judgement, and apply high level analysis and negotiation skills to litigious matters are just some of the main tasks that would be difficult for a machine to replicate.

However, AI does present an opportunity for streamlining routine paperwork processes such as will preparation and employment contract drafting. Although there are substantial savings to be made from this approach, many clerical and associate posts may be put at risk as a result.

Journalists

Recent software advances by Chicago-based technology firm Narrative Science may mean that its key product, a natural-language generating platform called Quill, could soon be used to compose news stories by machine.

Quill’s ability to re-sequence structured data into an intelligible story is expected to be particularly useful in finance and sport topics, as their predictable data formats may allow Quill to yield more consistent results than human journalists.

Entertainers

No longer the preserve of human creative endeavour, the music and film industries are also beginning to turn to AI in order to resurrect dead entertainers, in the form of holographic displays and other computer-generated special effects.

Examples include Marlon Brando’s cameo in Superman Returns released two years after his death, and the late Audrey Hepburn’s recent appearance in a television advert, both of which were created from a mix of original film footage and computerised imagery.

Although the rise of the robots seems inevitable, one solution to future job security may be found in adapting to such changes through continuous technology education.