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Is artificial intelligence going to put you out of a job?

Artificial intelligence is taking giant steps forward and is already managing to supplant some human functions. Do machines make us more efficient? Are we facing the progressive disappearance of human work or simply a new form of collaboration?

What is artificial intelligence?

The definition tells us that artificial intelligence (AI) is about the combination of algorithms to create machines that have the same capabilities as human beings. A technology that, although it may seem complex and distant, is already present in our daily lives around the clock. A revolution with specific applications such as home automation.

Giant leaps forward in microprocessors, and their ability to handle ever more information, have given way to an unstoppable evolution in machines. There is an open debate: Will machines ever be developed that are as intelligent as humans? Or even more intelligent? And if so, how will it affect us?


How is artificial intelligence changing your life

Microprocessors and algorithms end up becoming part of our daily lives in the form, for example, of robot vacuum cleaners such as the Conga or the Roomba. Or when Google tells us the fastest way to get to work.

Artificial intelligence is a reality that is already with us, whether we like it or not, and whatever we think of it, its progress is not going to be halted. The key is to look at it like this: What can AI offer me to make my life easier?

Of course, there are several types of artificial intelligence. Here are just a few examples:

  • Systems that think like humans: for example, artificial neural networks.
  • Systems that act like humans: robots or androids.
  • Systems that think rationally: expert systems, used for large data management.
  • Systems that act rationally: intelligent agents, such as Google News or the Alexa and Google virtual assistants.
  • Big Data: use of data from billions of devices to provide communicational, commercial and business advantages.

Artificial intelligence and work

The emergence of AI is absolutely real and its effects on the labour market are already beginning to be noticed. In fact, international organisations have begun to think about regulating the use of artificial intelligence.

Several measures are being thought about, such as that machines should pay in Social Security contributions and that it should be mandatory to take out insurance for larger machines, so that their owners bear the costs.

Countries like the United States and China are way ahead of us. The American consultant Gartner predicts that in 2020 in these two countries "85% of the interaction between companies and customers will be managed by AI".

The dream of becoming a civil servant with a job for life could forever fade away. The Treasury is considering replacing some civil servants with robots, implementing processes to automate day-to-day administrative tasks (RPA), capable of using information from structured and unstructured data systems, giving rise to new structured information. There is already a pilot project to verify the profitability and viability of this initiative.

According to data from several studies, the administrative robots business seems to be growing by 60% every year. With them, you can replace one or more people for about €11,200 per annum, with the added plus that robots work 24 hours a day.

In line with all this, the latest report by BBVA Research on the automation of the Spanish economy states that 36% of jobs throughout the economy are already at high risk of being automated.

In the Treasury, for example, RPA would be useful, efficient and fast for everything that has to do with analysis and management of hiring and historical records, balancing invoices and proof of purchase, or the verification of the de-registration of citizens.

"A robot can now replace one or more administrators, work 24 hours a day and cost the company only €11,200 per year."

Is artificial intelligence helping us or making us obsolete

The financial sector, auditing firms or administrative agencies are some of those that top the list of sectors where a great degree of automation has taken place. In call centres, up to 70% of companies' conversations with customers could be carried out by robots.

But not everything is so simple to carry out, and there are many other questions. When a computer system provides an answer to something, if we then need to know why it just told us what it told us, or enquire a little more, will it be able to answer us?

In this dilemma about whether AI and machines help us or supplant us, there are two theories:

In order not to be left with a sense of dystopia, we can cite more utopian examples, such as that of the health sector. A near future where technology will identify and prevent diseases much more accurately than now. Medical professionals will not become unemployed, but will handle this specialised information and have full control of the patient's progress. Experts in Big Data, Analytics and AI, working together, can develop algorithms capable of making very accurate forecasts of survival for certain diseases. As a result, healthcare will be more effective for everyone.

It is difficult to imagine a day when you enter a bar, ask a robot for a coffee, and he will be able to give you sweetener because he remembers that you have it like this every morning, warm, without froth, and that you prefer cake instead of toast with it.

However, it seems perfectly possible that a drone (yes, under human control) can fly over the surroundings of a natural park and, thanks to its routes, will know how to define which plants are not doing well, will be able to give clues to biologists who study the flights of birds and their trajectories, and can issue warnings regarding animals that are in danger in time to save them.

The question of whether artificial intelligence is going to leave us jobless does not, therefore, have a clear answer. It will depend on how we do it, how our jobs evolve and whether we will be able to improve with the help of machines.

"There are two opposing theories: that machines will replace us in less than 100 years, or that we will work alongside them to enjoy a better life."
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