Last week’s poll: AI, robotics and jobs


Last week we asked what effect AI and robotics would have on employment in Britain’s engineering sector, and it appears that respondents aren’t too worried about robots taking their jobs.

Just under half (47 per cent) of poll respondents thought that overall employment will increase but that jobs will change. This was followed by the 32 per cent who thought most manual jobs will be lost to automation, and 17 per cent who thought changes would be focussed in particular regions. The remaining four per cent thought there would be no overall change.

The poll was based on an OECD report that forecast 10 per cent of US jobs and 12 per cent of UK positions as being under threat from AI and robotics.

The results of the poll were largely reflected in the debate that followed, with Michael Morley writing to say: “I think that AI is often over-hyped. However, many low skill jobs will be lost as they require little in the way of complex multi-context information processing – I believe it will be a long time before we see a truly generally intelligent AI.”

“It only makes sense to automate jobs where there is a clear cost and efficiency saving, and obviously this will be primarily repetitive type tasks with a narrow range of requirement variables, e.g. manufacturing,” said Jason. “More complex and variable tasks in different environments will require very sophisticated automation which will probably be cost prohibitive compared to employing someone, especially as this will incur bigger maintenance and monitoring overheads.”

Part of Mohammed Abdullah’s comment stated: “AI is not a panacea. Many of the most important problems in engineering and science have no use for AI, and other techniques are well-developed and much more appropriate. AI will be transformational, but I think we’re in something of a hype-bubble, thanks to both industry and academia over-selling their work.”

Ending on an optimistic note, Another Steve said: “Someone (human) has to design, build, test, service and eventually retire and recycle these robots. So, maybe not such bad news for engineers?”

What do you think? Let us know via Comments below.