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4 December 2023

Will AI Replace Your Job?


Written By:

Edward Thomas Jones
Senior Lecturer in Economics
Bangor University

 

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At the beginning of November, the UK Government held a two-day summit at Bletchley Park (the birthplace of modern computing) to discuss global rules and the extreme risks around the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

During this summit, Elon Musk, the Tesla chief executive and owner of SpaceX and X, told Rishi Sunak that there will come a point where no job is needed as AI will be able to do everything. Musk comments have only fuelled the conversation about AI and the workplace, which is dominated by the downside. I can understand this negative view – after decades of automation eliminating manufacturing jobs, people in the service sector are worried about being replaced by AI.

How many of the 1.4 million workers in Wales will, sooner or later, find their job being replaced by AI? 

AI is already touching all our lives and the technology has already affected vast swaths of the Welsh workforce in a meaningful way. It has helped workers make better decisions, improve their communication and collaboration, and automated routine tasks. However, with the full potential of the technology yet to be realised, workers are increasingly trying to determine whether AI is a friend or foe.

It is right to say that AI will be hugely disruptive in the world of work but rather than replacing humans, AI will most likely complement humans in the workplace. Just a few decades ago, the internet created similar concerns, but the technology went on to create millions of new jobs. It is anticipated that AI will have an even greater impact. AI’s accelerated development follows a similar trend to other technologies before it: exciting, concerning and, ultimately, beneficial to the Welsh economy. While the technology will fundamentally change the way we work and live, the reality is that any negatives associated with AI will be outweighed by positives.

The AI revolution will be more disruptive to the labour markets than many of the technologies that came before it. If the Welsh Government, businesses, and workers are not ready to embrace the impending changes, they will be left behind. This could lead to businesses collapsing, talent shortages, elevated unemployment, and society as a whole being worse off. It is critical that the Welsh Government help businesses and workers transition to an AI-powered economy. To do this, the Government needs to coordinate efforts in four key areas:

1.      Upskilling

People are already apprehensive about the impact of AI on their jobs. The Welsh Government needs to understand how the technology will transform the economy and support the appropriate upskilling of the workforce. This should focus on how to use AI, where to deploy it, and its ethical limitations.

2.      Meaning of work

AI will change what is meant as work and the technology will be able to perform tasks at speed and scale that is difficult to comprehend. As a result, businesses will need to re-think the work currently performed so that people can focus on higher-value tasks such as creativity, emotional intelligence, and leadership.

3.      Transition

Businesses and the Welsh Government must coordinate efforts to help workers adapt transition to the AI-powered economy. This might be in the form of supporting upskilling or helping workers shift to growth areas or discover new career paths in other industries.

4.      Support when times are tough

AI’s most vocal advocates have even raised concerns about the impact on the loss of income and jobs, especially among so-called lower-skilled workers. Even those who can move into new career path in the AI-powered economy may experience some short-term hardship. For those workers negatively impacted by AI, the Welsh Government must provide social protection where it is needed.

Welsh businesses will need strong leadership and governance during this exciting transition, while workers need to be given the right skills, a new way of working, sustainable career paths, and social support.  Technology has always been a powerful enabler of economic growth. But AI must be used in a responsible and ethical way that leaves no one behind.

The AI transition will unleash the Welsh economy because the technology will automate many tasks and businesses with need to re-think how best to amplify the creativity and innovation of workers. Creativity is at the heart of Welsh life. For example, eisteddfods are held all over the country where people celebrate our culture and compete in arts, language, and music. The economy is driven by this type of creativity. All of the artists that attend and compete at eisteddfods share similar traits to the entrepreneurs that drive an economy forward.  Artists, like entrepreneurs, have a creative impulse, a desire to do something different, to take ideas and make them a reality. They both use their imagination to create something new or improve upon what has already been done. They follow their gut instinct to produce something that is outside the norm, trendy, or hot, and fine-tune their approach to succeed. Transition to the AI-powered economy will unleash Welsh creativity in the workplace helping the country to prosper in this new era.


 



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