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Machine Learning Spurring Long-term Job Growth

In his path-breaking book Zero to One, Peter Thiel has defined progress with an example beautifully – if we take one typewriter and build a hundred, it is horizontal progress i.e. One to Many. Instead, from the typewriter we are able to build a word processor we have made vertical progress, Zero to One. While the word to describe horizontal progress would be globalization or progress through increased volumes, the one word to describe vertical, Zero to One growth would be Technology.

In other words, Technology is any new and better way of doing things – and is not confined to the world of software or electronics.

By its very nature, Technology disturbs the status quo and the resulting disruption can cause unintended fallouts – some welcome, some not so. Secondly, while some disruptions occur immediately, some could take a long time to set in, giving us time to prepare for them.

Take computerization for example. When computers first began to be heard of, they were imagined to be miraculous machines that had the answers to any question that we posed to them – a misconception that was soon driven away once they made their way into the main-stream.

In India, when computers began their tentative entry from labs and academia into the commercial world, there were protests galore saying they would cause massive job losses. One remembers the strikes by employee unions, especially from the banking and insurance sectors, protesting the introduction of computers in their operations.

However, when they saw that no one was losing their jobs with computers coming into the workplace, rather their work was becoming easier, the protests died down and slowly, computerization spread to every domain.

And rather than leading to loss of jobs, the spread of computerization combined with our familiarity with English allowed us to become a part of the IT revolution and provide employment to hundreds of thousands of our youth.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated technological advances and preponed automation of many routine tasks. The way machine learning is creating the concern of possible job loss now, early adoption period of internet created the same a couple of decades ago. The latter created millions of jobs and now comprises of 10 per cent of the US GDP alone. The internet economy in India, valued at USD 537.4, has contributed 16 per cent to its GDP in 2020.

The past decade has seen progress on three very important fronts.

First, the Internet spread has spread through reasonably good bandwidth being available at affordable prices.

Massive data generation happened through growth of social media and e-commerce along with storage of this data and gigantic cloud storage facilities riding on the Internet.

And finally, exponential growth in computing power, with supercomputers capable of quintillions of operations per second now available with the private sector too, not just government agencies.

It is a combination of these three factors that makes it possible for the next wave of technology – Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

While AL and ML have been around for quite some time, it is only now that their true potential is capable of being achieved, thanks to the progress that has been made in data generation, storage, accessibility and analytics.

As organizations begin the process of Digital Transformation they start digitizing their data – from basic accounting to complex ERP systems that capture data from all the processes within the organization.

The data thus captured first begins to be used for better understanding what happened through the use of Business Intelligence (BI) Dashboards. By converting complex data into visualizations, BI allows stakeholders to view the data from different perspectives, as well as slice and dice data themselves, without having to depend on specialists to do it for them. These dashboards also have the ability to indicate possible future trends through extrapolation of past data. As organizations begin to use BI, there will be an upsurge in the requirement for digital transformation and data visualization experts

This is where AI begins to play a role. As more and more data is made available, it is possible for algorithms to make accurate predictions of what could happen based upon past data.

When the accuracy of the predictions reach 100 per cent, they can then be used in conjunction with the human responses they triggered, enabling algorithms to prescribe what should be done in each possible future scenario.

Taken further, along with IoT and Robotics, inputs from algorithms on actions to be taken can be performed without any human intervention.

But for all this to happen, there will be a huge need for highly skilled personnel in areas ranging from data analysts & scientists, specialists in AI and ML, Big Data, Process Automation, Digital Transformation, IT Security, IoT, Strategy, as well as Digital Marketing and Business Development professionals.

As a matter of fact, in its Future of Jobs Report 2020, the World Economic Forum has projected creation of more that 97 million jobs in specific areas by 2025 in the 26 countries covered.

Growing job demands (97 million):

  1. Data analysts and Scientists
  2. AI and Machine Learning Specialists
  3. Big Data Specialists
  4. Digital Marketing and Strategy Specialists
  5. Process Automation Specialists
  6. Digital Transformation Specialists
  7. Information Security Specialists
  8. Software and Application Developers
  9. Internet of Thongs Specialists
  10. Business Development Professionals

Decreasing Job Demands (85 million):

  1. Data Entry Clerks
  2. Admin and Exec Secretaries
  3. Accounting, Bookkeeping and Payroll Clerks
  4. Accountants and Auditors
  5. Assembly and Factory Workers
  6. Client Information and Customer Service Workers
  7. Business Service and Administration Managers
  8. General and Operations Managers
  9. Mechanics and Machinery Repairers
  10. Stock-keeping Clerks

There would be another way in which the economy would be benefitted – increased productivity through hugely improved efficiency as well as decrease in labour inactivity costs.

In fact, the PWC Global Artificial Intelligence Study has pegged an increase of USD 15.7 trillion in global GDP due to adoption of Artificial Intelligence by 2030. To put this 26 per cent increase in context (40 per cent due to increase in Productivity and 60 per cent due to increased consumption), it is greater than the combined GDP of China and India.

Similarly, in a study released in April 2021, Accenture found that AI has the potential to add USD 957 billion, or 15 percent of India’s current gross value in 2035. It suggested that the combination of the technology, data and talent that make intelligent systems possible has reached critical mass, and will drive extraordinary growth in AI investment.

As per PwC’s Annual Global CEO Survey, 63 per cent CEOs believe that AI will have a larger impact than the internet in creating new jobs and boosting all major economies.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies driven by AI will continue to fundamentally change the world and the way we work and live, AI technology will create more jobs than it automates. Without doubt, reskilling and upskilling can transform economies.

As with any technological progress, there is always a cost. But invariably, as history has shown, the benefits will overweigh them, sometimes in ways that cannot be envisaged at present. And, we should not let this stop us from embracing the future.

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