While the field of artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for some 60 years , it’s now finally a part of our daily lives — including how we work, bank, shop, interact, invest, drive and get insured.
The term AI means different things to different people, but at PwC we think about it on a continuum, moving from assisted to augmented and, finally, autonomous intelligence. Here, I am primarily focusing on assisted intelligence — applications that help us better perform tasks we’re already doing today. This includes things like email filtering, automated processing of insurance claims and customer service chatbots, just to name a few applications.
Will AI and Robotics Replace Our Jobs?
Of course when you’re talking about AI, the question of automation and its potential to replace human jobs isn’t far behind. There have been many sobering predictions, including one by PwC’s own economic analysts , which suggests that around 38 percent of U.S. jobs could potentially be at high risk of automation by the early 2030s, followed by Germany (35 percent), the U.K. (30 percent) and Japan (21 percent). The automation appears highest in the transportation (56 percent), manufacturing (46 percent) and wholesale/retail (44 percent) sectors, but lower in healthcare and social work (17 percent). But is this the entire story? No. In reality, not all of these jobs will actually be automated, for a variety of economic, legal and regulatory reasons. Furthermore, new automation technologies will create new types of jobs in the robotics, software and decision support domains. Additionally, productivity gains will generate added wealth and spending that will support an ever-increasing amount of service jobs. Similarly, history has proven the same alongside the automation of the agriculture and manufacturing industries over the last century.
Use AI to Work Without Barriers
The net long-term impact of AI and automation on total employment isn’t a given — it could be either positive or negative. It will be a balance between an evolving workforce and the pace of technology advancement. Average pre-tax incomes should rise due to the productivity gains, but these benefits may not be evenly spread across income groups. For instance, the U.S. high school graduation rate reaching 83.2 percent (as shared by the White House in 2016), up from around only 40 percent post-World War II, may put pressure on the availability of unskilled labor.