Opinion divided on impact of AI on jobs market, says BT survey

Opinion divided on impact of AI on jobs market, says BT survey

Artificial intelligence could spell end of repetitive tasks (Credit: BT Archive)
The workplace of yesteryear: Operators at work in a BT exchange in the 1920s. (Credit: BT)

Who knows whether artificial intelligence will create or destroy jobs? IT directors don’t – or, at least, their opinions on the matter are profoundly divided, according to a new survey from BT. 

IT directors disagree on whether artificial intelligence (AI) will create or destroy jobs at their organizations.

According to a new report from BT, The Future Workplace: How is disruptive technology influencing business decision makers?, a third of IT leaders plan to implement AI and automation in the next two years, in the belief that it will create more jobs within the workplace.

But a similar proportion of respondents predicts that these technologies could result in job losses in their organization, citing concerns that innovations in robotics and intelligent computer systems may eventually replace jobs traditionally done by humans, particularly those of a manual, repetitive nature.

Read more: Smart factories to add $1,500bn to global economy by 2022, says Capgemini

A beneficial effect?

The survey of 1,501 IT decision makers across UK organizations of all sizes reveals that AI and automation are already being implemented by over a third of respondents. One in four organisations are already using automation technologies like drones, robots or autonomous vehicles, with almost two-thirds (63 percent) describing AI or automation technologies as being ‘very beneficial’ to their organisations.

Around one in three IT decision makers are planning to invest in AI and automation over the next two years, suggesting that organizations across the country are gearing up to embrace these technologies soon. Of these respondents, 62 percent believe that their organisations will be more effective as a result.

Meanwhile, IT security concerns remain one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of AI and automation. More than four out of ten (44 percent) of organisations operating within the public sector believe that greater automation will leave their organisation open to cyber attacks, compared with 28 percent of those operating in the private sector.

Within the private sector, larger organisations are the most concerned about the impact of AI, with 40 percent identifying as it as the technology they consider carrying the most risk over the next two years.

Read more: Manchester CityVerve is like a neural pathway

Age of disruption

“This research gives us a fascinating insight into the early adoption of AI, automation and other disruptive technologies in the UK workplace,” said Colm O’Neill, managing director of major corporates and public sector at BT.

“The findings illustrate the rapid pace of technological change amongst organisations of all types and sizes.

“And, while some organisations clearly view disruptive technologies as a potential threat to the labour market, we believe the introduction of new automated technologies and business processes will play to the strengths of both people and machines.

“A good example of this is where BT’s world-leading security team is using machine-assisted cyber threat hunting to proactively identify cybersecurity threats. This combines AI and big data techniques with the use of human analysts who are critical in providing the context and judgement needed to distinguish between anomalous and malicious activity,” O’Neill concluded.