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London Tech Week: Will AI Put Your Job At Risk?

You may not blink twice when using those self-checkout machines at supermarkets, but next time you are using one, maybe you should. At the moment they may not pose a threat to you, but in the future they could.

This was the theme of the discussion at the Spectator panel debate in London: Will artificial intelligence put my job at risk?  At the moment we take these machines for granted, never thinking for one-minute they might actually outpace us. We even find those virtual assistants, robots, whatever you may want to call them, amusing. But should we be thinking this way?

In his talk, Laboratory Director at Microsoft, Professor Andrew Blake, mentioned the presence of ‘Artificial Intelligence’ all around us. From Amazon’s eerie sense of knowing what we want to buy to smart elevators and robot receptionists – all using some form of AI model.

But author Bryan Appleyard was quick to question the very usage of the term ‘Artificial Intelligence’: “No, Artificial Intelligence will not put your job at risk because there is no such thing as Artificial Intelligence.”

“If the question is rephrased, will computers put my job at risk, then the answer is obviously yes.”

Appleyard said that AI is a ‘marketing slogan’ which is intended to make the subject all sci-fi and exciting. He admitted that powerful computers can pose a threat to human jobs but that we should treat all claims of ‘Artificial Intelligence’ with scepticism. He also made reference to last week’s claim that a chatbot by the name of Eugene Goostman passed the Turing test – saying the Turing test sets a very low bar for Artificial Intelligence.

TUC’s Head of Economic and Social Affairs, Nicola Smith gave a more balanced view of the two sides, saying there are ‘real risks’ to people’s jobs, giving the example of the job situation in the US: “In America there are people arguing that the sluggish US jobs performance has been led in part by high rates of technological change which has led to higher unemployment levels.” Smith admitted there is a lot of evidence to support this but on the flip side, noted other areas where technology has led to enormous advances and to employment gains.

It was Jamie Bartlett, Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media who pointed out that there is more at stake than humans just losing their jobs. According to Bartlett, in 20 or 30 years’ time, AI will ‘provoke a political response’ and even create an ‘anti-tech political movement’.

Do you think AI will put your job at risk?


IDG Connect has produced two reports on this subject recently:

Is 2014 the Year of Artificial Intelligence?

Are ‘Mind Reading’ Apps Good or Bad?


Ayesha Salim is E-Content Writer at IDG Connect


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Ayesha Salim

Ayesha Salim is Staff Writer at IDG Connect

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