Will A Robot Be Doing Your Job?

Picture if you will a dystopian near future in which artificial intelligence (AI) has stolen your job (the one you were wrongly told would be safe from the ravages of technology), and that of everyone around you.  No longer will we have city traders managing funds on behalf of their clients.  Algorithms will work 24-hours a day, leaving you to have a lie in.  Solicitors? Forget it; intelligent expert machines will listen to clients and recommend the best course of action and the courts will be full of robots politely discussing the fine minutiae of law as they trawl their limitless database of information, and you will be left oiling their gears.  Will courts even exist outside of the cloud?  Who knows?

Great swathes of middle management jobs are predicted to be overtaken by AI.  Even surgeons will not be exempt – imagine a world where ‘never events’ no longer exist because robots are able to perform surgery with 100% accuracy, every time; an impossible ask of any human being let alone a doctor who is averaging 80-hour weeks due to NHS staff shortages.

Before you start Googling “future proof careers”, or “is my professional job going to be taken over by a robot soon”, don’t panic. In this article we will look at some of the latest information available on AI, and how this technological phenomenon is predicted to impact us in the future.

The waves of change are coming

PWC, who seeing automation and AI close on the horizon, conducted a study entitled Sizing the prize: PwC’s Global Artificial Intelligence Study: Exploiting the AI Revolution, involving 200,000 roles in 29 countries to understand the pros and cons of this technology, believe that AI will leverage digital data to revolutionise all aspects of our lives.  Their assessment is that change will come in three distinct waves, and with each wave resulting in more jobs currently performed by humans becoming automated:

  • Algorithmic wave in the early 2020s – it is expected this will result in 3% of jobs being automated as algorithms assist humans to gain rapid insights they could not previously
  • Augmentation wave in the late 2020s – In this period, machines will continue to work with humans to assist them in their decision making but will now begin to learn from their mistakes (adaptive systems).
  • Autonomy wave in the mid-2030s – during this wave, autonomous machines will take over approximately 30% of jobs that currently

Don’t panic….yet.

PWC foresee a gradual replacement of the need for humans in some jobs as machines become better at performing tasks for themselves. However, it is important to understand that the scale of impact will vary from industry to industry.  Transport, for example, is expected to see half of its jobs done by automated machines, but healthcare is expected to see only around 20% of jobs taken over by AI.

How will AI and automation impact professional roles?

The global banking sector, according to McKinsey & Company, is keenly pursuing automation technologies as a means to allow humans to focus on ‘higher value’ projects, while the robots do the donkey work. We have seen this already with the rise of the chatbots, which according to McKinsey, have not proven particularly effective in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.  They believe automated technology in the finance sector is rapidly maturing and will lead to 10 – 25% of banking functions becoming automated, freeing workers to move onto new growth opportunities.

In the field of law, AI is already transforming discovery; the process whereby documents are reviewed for evidence within a case.  eDiscovery now means that AI-driven software can sift through thousands of documents in a fraction of time it would take a human, using natural language and self-learning technology. Also, software can review previous cases and statistically predict the outcome of legal proceedings before they are played out.  So, are we about to have robot solicitors anytime soon?  Perhaps to a very limited extent.  Wevorce.com is a US divorce service that is already utilising an AI-powered machine to guide clients through the divorce process (although a human law professional is on hand when needed); such a solution is therefore already available to handle the legal process of divorce.  Admittedly this is not going to completely replace a solicitor given the wide range of legal knowledge they possess, but it shows the direction of travel for the legal profession.  AI will undoubtedly play a huge role in the law sector in coming decades; therefore, it is imperative that firms prepare adequately to compete.

In conclusion

The rise of AI and automation should not cause professionals to lose sleep at night.  Despite the fairly pessimistic views of futurists such as Elon Musk, there is a huge upside to this emerging revolution, but it needs to be embraced by everyone, not repelled; after all, it is already here.  David Halliwell, Director of Knowledge and Innovation Delivery at Pinsent Masons, is a firm believer that law firms need to be active in this space otherwise the technology players will dominate. “[law firms] run the risk of being cut out of the picture by technology providers who will be able to go directly to in-house legal teams and provide them with solutions that don’t need to be underwritten by a law firm” he states.

Sorry, we can’t guarantee your job will be safe in 30 years time, but by being part of these new waves of technology, your career and business can flourish.  After all, look at what the internet revolution has done for us; the technological revolutions just on the horizon have the potential to do even more if we embrace them.

BDBF are employment law specialists. Contact us for confidential employment law advice on 020 3828 0350.