The question has only grown in its timeliness over the course of 2020, with the pandemic-related economic crisis accelerating the corporate need to slash costs and streamline work.
Demand for automation increases in times of economic strain, based on data from previous recessions: A 2016 report by researchers at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and Yale looked at 87 million job postings before and after the Great Recession, and found that the downturn in fact accelerated what they called “routine-biased technological change.” A more recent report in September this year from McKinsey found that of 800 executives surveyed, nearly half noted that their adoption of automation accelerated “moderately,” and roughly 20% reported “significantly increasing” automation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We think it’s all gradual, but actually, there are spikes, and we may be in one right now, where AI technology has been getting better and better and commoditized, and getting cheaper through the last decade,” Brookings Institution researcher Mark Muro told Yahoo Finance.
Low-skilled jobs like cashiers, truck drivers and assembly-line workers are typically thought of as the first in line to be fully displaced when it comes to automation. But even high-skilled workers like software developers have room for at least parts of their work to be streamlined, according to Muro.
“I think in the near-term, it can be viewed as complementary. It may remove boring work and so on. But that’s really always the story with these technologies,” he added. “And they eventually contribute to efficiencies and productivity and usually do reduce the headcount. We probably shouldn’t beat around the bush on that.”
A Brookings paper from November 2019 that ranked professions on their relative exposure to AI, listed computer programmers as the occupation third most exposed, following market research analysts and sales managers at first and second, respectively.
But exposure — which could involve simply having workers use AI tools as part of their day-to-day tasks — isn’t always the same as fully replacing the workers themselves. That said, substitution of individual tasks in coders’ and developers’ jobs is already in full swing, according to Ravin Jesuthasan, author and member of the World Economic Forum’s Steering Committee on Work and Employment. Read more via SportsGrinderEntertainment