Job loss is one of the biggest issues related to artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, neural networks, deep learning, and robots. People routinely fear that companies will automate using these areas of technology to become more efficient, boost profits, and shed the less efficient and error-prone workforce.
The counter-argument is that companies that embrace these technologies will be more profitable, will, therefore, manufacture more goods and provide more services, need to employ more people, whose jobs will be more complex and more rewarding as a result of machines assuming the drudgery.
History predicts reality will mean a difficult period of adaptation while millions of jobs are lost before the new ones are created.
Bookkeepers, accountants, even CFOs and CAs should be more deeply concerned that their roles will change as a result of AI, machine learning, and similarly advanced technologies. We are already developing a machine learning-based support solution for the Sage environment. In fact, AI and machine learning have already made such an impact in the world of finance that right here in our country the South African Association of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), together with the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA), has initiated a project called CA2025. The project is investigating the competencies that CAs and RAs will need in future and could have a marked impact on the syllabus taught at university.
The world of finance is not the only one being rocked by these new technologies. They are making their impact felt in medical, engineering, manufacturing, warehousing, retail – almost every industry on the planet. They’re automating the mundane, routine jobs, things like assigning expenses, a task accountants routinely perform. That kind of task is, by and large, uncomplicated. Machines can perform the bulk of it far quicker and more accurately than people. So our people will be released to perform more valuable work for us and that’s really exciting.
The same thing happened in the First Industrial Revolution. Apprentices, journeymen, even trade masters, people who had spent decades acquiring specific skills, men and women who were at the top of their game, some highly sought-after, lost their livelihoods in droves to steam-powered machines. Many hundreds of thousands were eventually re-employed as machine operators and a wealth of new jobs that never existed prior to the revolution.
Those people who reskilled early fared best. The same will happen today.
It took roughly 200 years for that evolution to occur during the First Industrial Revolution. It will likely happen far quicker today but the fact remains – people have time since the change, much as we may choose to believe otherwise, is not a big bang that suddenly engulfs us. It arrives, piecemeal, creeping into our lives, our workplaces, meshing with the fabric of our societies until it becomes the new normal.
Those who prosper see it, accept it, and adapt. Now is the time to act. That is why we are putting machine learning to work in the Sage environment, so that it can help professionals do their jobs better, so they can see the future at work today, and become the agents of change that will keep them and their businesses competitive in this brave new world.
By Gerrit Olivier, CEO of About IT