Fears that artificial intelligence will munch through our job prospects and leave us slumped on the scrap-heap may be overblown, according to tech chiefs.
There's been much debate about how automation, whether that's robots replacing workers in warehouses or smart algorithms replacing white-collar jobs, could be bad for employment.
But when asked whether they thought the emergence of artificial intelligence would have negative consequences for employment, the ZDNet/TechRepublic panel of tech decision makers voted 'no' by a margin of eight to four, providing a slightly different take on the consequences.
Rob Neil, head of business change and technology Ashford Borough Council, said the market will adapt and throw up new opportunities, as ever. "I did an AI MSc in 1990, and although some of the stuff has manifested itself in Siri, Google Translate, Image Search and the like, the much-anticipated wholesale removal of the workforce thanks to intelligent computers has yet to materialise. I won't hold my breath."
Meanwhile, David Wilson, IT manager at VectorCSP, said: "Any new technology creates a whole new workforce to support it," while Dirk De Busser, IT manager at Fashion Club 70, made a similar point: "It will have consequences for employment, but I don't think it will be negative. It's just a normal evolution of automatization. And that's already [been] happening a few decades."
Rocky Goforth, director of IT operations and infrastructure at Thoratec, said artificial intelligence is likely to mean organizations can do more with the same-sized team, while Mike Klaus, information systems manager at City of Kearney, said: "I see this as a natural progression."
Florentin Albu, CIO at Rothamsted Research, said: "I do not believe that the emergence of AI will have significant impact on employment in the next 10 years." But not all tech chiefs were so confident.
John Gracyalny, VP of IT at SafeAmerica Credit Union, said: "I believe that AI will reduce the overall employment level. I see it as automating far more jobs than it creates. It has the possibility of creating more, but I don't think our social and educational systems are up to the task of training people for the 'AI economy' fast enough to make up the difference."
And Chuck Elliott VP of IT at Concord University, warned that there are already negative consequences for employment, pointing to lights-out manufacturing and predictions that nearly half of US jobs could be automated within the next 20 years. "These trends will continue," he predicted, adding: "With computers and AI diminishing the value of human labor, the more important question, in my opinion, is will the positive consequences outweigh the negative? Will new jobs and new types of jobs sufficiently offset the automation trends that will reduce the need for human workers? I welcome any good news for our children and future generations!"
This week's CIO Jury was:
David Wilson, IT manager at VectorCSP Florentin Albu, CIO at Rothamsted Research Shawn Beighle, CIO, International Republican Institute Madhushan Gokool, IT manager at Storm Models Mike Klaus, Information Systems Manager at City of Kearney John Gracyalny, VP of IT at SafeAmerica Credit Union Delano A. Gordon, CIO, Roofing Supply Group Dirk De Busser, IT Manager at Fashion Club 70 Chuck Elliott VP of IT, Concord University Rob Neil, head of business change and technology at Ashford Borough Council Rocky Goforth, director of IT operations and infrastructure at Thoratec Michael Hanken, VP of IT, Multiquip
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