Is AI coming for your job? Statistically, I am at risk

In technological revolutions gone by, it was those that laboured with muscle rather than mind whose jobs were threatened or faced extinction.

There is something more democratic about the next-generation AI revolution currently upon us – blue-collar workers are safer than those in white-collar jobs.

There is much to be said about over-categorisation in research, so maybe I shouldn’t be too worried about the research paper just released by investment group Jarden that says the media industry is particularly exposed to job losses, and that North Sydney, where my employer Nine Entertainment is located, is the suburb that will experience a higher proportion of job dislocation due to AI.

Jobs will be lost with the adoption of AI – just which ones, and how many, is unclear.
Jobs will be lost with the adoption of AI – just which ones, and how many, is unclear.Credit: iStock

But if the predictions are right, I will have no shortage of company standing in the unemployment queue next to web developers, actuaries, advertising and marketing professionals, call centre workers, debt collectors and accountants – though I won’t see any concreters, handymen, railway track workers or cleaners, butchers or fast food cooks.

The list certainly explains why Jarden’s study, which focuses on Australia, suggests that the inner rings around the CBDs of capital cities housing large numbers of office workers are where the effects of the AI revolution will be most felt.

As many studies on the effects of AI on jobs have found, Jarden’s analysts make the point that “being exposed to AI disruption does not mean an occupation will be replaced, but it could be augmented, improving worker productivity (eg AI could assist statisticians and science professionals and can make web developers far more productive).

“That said, in some cases, this improved productivity may mean that employers require less labour, meaning less employment in some highly exposed occupations”.

There is something more democratic about the next-generation AI revolution currently upon us – blue-collar workers are safer than those in white-collar jobs.

In other words, some occupations like journalism could see enhanced productivity as tasks like research could be assisted by AI leaving us more time to produce stories.

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A lot of the grunt work done by lawyers or even scientists could be removed by AI – allowing time for higher-order tasks to be done by education professionals.

Indeed, there are other studies on disruptive effects of AI in the labour market that suggest that within the white-collar space, the higher the education, the safer the worker.

Jarden’s research, however, found a strong correlation between higher paid workers and the level of disruption.

Similarly, a just-released paper on the topic by the IMF notes that “even high-skill occupations, which were previously considered immune to automation because of their complexity and reliance on deep expertise, now face potential disruption”.

So it’s more nuanced than the division between sedentary and active workers. No one, for example, is contemplating that there will be any judges on those unemployment queues, but they are expected to become more productive using AI.

It is productivity which is at the heart of why companies (and therefore stock markets) are excited about AI and why governments are salivating at the prospect it could radically improve GDP.

And it explains why when the government released its first attempt at defining regulation around AI it barely made a dent.

The government’s response to safe AI regulation issued this week acknowledged some of the threats posed by AI, but at the same time estimated that adopting AI and automation could add an additional $170 billion to $600 billion a year to Australia’s GDP by 2030.

That’s a lot of reasons to take a regulation-lite approach – much the same way that the US has dealt with balancing AI’s threat and opportunity.

Australia has little by way of companies like Nvidia and Microsoft in the US that are involved directly in the roll-out of AI.

But as Jarden points out, there are particular businesses here that could be positively impacted by the first wave of adoption, citing companies such as Brambles, Telstra, Orica and Goodman Group. Those Jarden sees negatively affected include Flight Centre, Helloworld and software group Altium.

The downside is that those that adopt the technology earlier are more exposed to an initial hit to their earnings as it will require additional investment spending.

There is little debate among experts that many jobs will disappear. Just how many remains to be seen.

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Source: Thanks smh.com