AI isn’t eliminating jobs, it’s deconstructing them

by HRD23 Aug 2017
Asia-based senior executives in global firms believe that the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics on their business performance in APAC will be “immediate, profound, and positive”.

This is according to a new report published by the MIT Technology Review, which surveyed senior executives (including HR professionals) in the region to get a sense of the impact of AI and robotics on Asia's business landscape.

Researchers looked into four markets – Singapore, China, Australia, and India – and found that advances in automation technology are quickly changing the way firms manage and develop human talent, going so far as to put into question what exactly a ‘job’ is.
  • Australia is fostering AI development in healthcare, financial services, and in a green-economy focus on energy and utilities
  • The skills and talent pools created by India’s IT ecosystem are seen as an asset that could make it a globally competitive producer of AI software and applications
  • Significant AI research and investment in China give it a real possibility of securing a leading role in defining AI globally
  • Singapore is keen to future-proof its economy through AI, leading to a focus on applications poised to redefine the city-state’s role as one of the world’s most important finance centers.
While many are still wary of the redundancy that AI brings to the workforce, respondents to this study felt that technological advancements in the field will have overwhelmingly positive effects across sectors in Asia.

The MIT study found that HR executives feel adopting AI and robotics will cause their roles to evolve over the next five years into ’productivity management’ roles – encompassing the management of both human and artificial talent.

But what does that mean for the rank and file?

Much of Asia’s workforce still lacks the technical skill set to keep pace with advances in AI. What the region does have in abundance, however, are the ‘natural resources’ needed to promote and develop machine-learning capabilities.

According to the study, China, India and other large Asian economies generate a copious amount of data, which is critical to pushing AI's capabilities forward. Australia and Singapore, despite their small sizes, each punch well above their weight in the development of ‘indigenous’ AI R&D resources, and have clear visions for how machine learning can complement and enhance the competitiveness of their established leading industries.

It is precisely Asia's massive human capital, literally billions of highly-connected workers and consumers, that will propel AI development in the region farther and faster.

The rise of AI will likely put employment on the rank and file level at risk in various sectors. But firms – Asian firms in particular – stand to gain a lot in adopting them, enhancing and redefining systems, and increasing overall productivity.
 

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