29 Mar 2017

Reports that up to a third of UK jobs are at risk from AI / automation technologies have been widely covered in the media. 

In general, if a task can be automated to a sufficiently proven success level, using automation technology is almost certainly going to be more economic than using a human.  It follows that unless policy makers choose to adopt an interventionist policy against automation or a boom in AI and robotics creates more jobs within its own industry than it replaces – which seems far from certain – market forces and economic imperatives are likely to result in a big uptake of such technologies and we are seeing this in practice already. Predictions of the loss of some jobs - or at least the loss of human performance of those jobs - seem quite persuasive. Planning ahead to address the needs to re-skill, re-train and re-deploy some roles is therefore becoming increasingly important and is regularly on the agenda in the industry steering groups which we participate in. 

It's not all doom and gloom however, as at the same time, the appropriate use of AI and automation may help us to focus on what we, as humans, do best and where we can truly add the most value.

If rapid technological development leads to increased fragmentation of the value chain via task-automation, the role of human workers in end-to-process will be more focussed specifically on those aspects which are more "human" ie. which can't be automated well (creativity, collaboration, passion, teamwork, for example). Professional services are unlikely to be immune from the forces of fragmentation. AI has the potential to liberate workers, including in the traditional professions, from certain process-driven and time-consuming parts of their work. This should free us to focus on the areas where our training and skill is most valuable to our clients, and make the delivery and consumption of our service more efficient for our clients – a "win / win".

As regular participants in the debate, we'll be watching developments closely and will continue to report on the key issues involved.