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Automation or augmentation? This is how AI will be integrated into the jobs of tomorrow

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Financial services are one of the sectors with the highest potential exposure to artificial intelligence. Image: Unsplash/Adeolu Eletu

Ian Shine
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  • Assessing the ways AI could automate or augment various jobs is the focus of the World Economic Forum’s new Jobs of Tomorrow whitepaper.
  • Routine and repetitive tasks are the ones AI is most likely to automate, whereas critical thinking and complex problem-solving could be augmented by the technology.
  • Ensuring workers are equipped to handle the changing nature of their jobs is vital, and the Jobs of Tomorrow report has four recommendations for doing so.
Have you read?

    While artificial intelligence (AI) is already having an impact on the world of work, AI could struggle to figure out what exactly that impact will be. That’s because the critical thinking and analytical skills needed to make such an assessment are harder to automate. But are they skills that could be augmented by AI?

    Assessing the ways AI could automate or augment various jobs is the focus of the World Economic Forum’s new Jobs of Tomorrow whitepaper. It provides in-depth analysis of the possible impact of large language models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT on 19,000 individual tasks across 867 occupations, and classifies them according to whether they have high potential for automation, high potential for augmentation, low potential for either, or could simply be unaffected.

    Here’s a breakdown of the report’s main findings:

    The jobs with high potential for AI automation

    Routine and repetitive tasks are the ones AI is most likely to take over. This means credit authorizers, checkers and clerks are most at risk from AI, as 81% of their tasks are automatable, the Jobs of Tomorrow report says.

    Jobs of Tomorrow whitepaper, September 2023
    Jobs of Tomorrow whitepaper, September 2023 Image: World Economic Forum

    This is quite some distance ahead of the next jobs on the list – telemarketers with 68% automatable tasks, statistical assistants with 61% and bank tellers with 60%.

    “With 62% of total work time involving language-based tasks, the widespread adoption of LLMs such as ChatGPT could significantly impact various job roles,” the Forum report says. “The capabilities of these models, paired with their accessibility and rapid adoption rate, suggest that many work tasks – and jobs that emphasize them – could be impacted by the use of LLMs in the years to come.”

    The jobs with high potential for AI augmentation

    AI may not be able to take over tasks involving critical thinking and complex problem-solving, but it will be able to lend a hand. This LLM assistance will save workers time and consequently boost their productivity, especially if they have roles involving mathematical and scientific analysis.

    Insurance underwriters are most likely to benefit from this – 100% of their tasks have the potential to be augmented, the Jobs of Tomorrow report says.

    Jobs of Tomorrow whitepaper, September 2023
    Jobs of Tomorrow whitepaper, September 2023 Image: World Economic Forum

    Next on the list are bioengineers and biomedical engineers, where 84% of tasks are augmentable. Mathematicians could see AI helping out with four-fifths of their workload, while editors may be getting help 72% of the time.

    “The tasks with the highest potential for augmentation are those that require more abstract reasoning skills, especially those that combine interaction with people,” the Forum report says. This is why journalists, travel agents and training specialists are on the augmentable list.

    The report also cites the example of people who create surveys to gather information on consumer needs or opinions: “While running a survey could be a highly automated process … the crafting and wording of survey questions still requires a high degree of attention and approval by the person collecting the data.”


    How is the World Economic Forum ensuring the responsible use of technology?

    The jobs with low potential for AI automation or augmentation

    Jobs requiring higher levels of personal interaction are at least risk from LLMs. Healthcare professionals, teachers, social workers and careers advisors all fall into this category, as do human resources (HR) managers.

    Only 16.1% of an HR manager’s job shows potential for automation and 22.2% for augmentation, according to the Jobs of Tomorrow report. The automatable tasks include “determine resource needs of projects or operations and manage budgets or finances”, while the augmentable ones include “explain regulations, policies or procedures and train others on operational or work procedures”.

    Figure illustrating the different examples of an exposed and non-exposed job.
    HR managers are less likely than software developers to see parts of their job taken over by AI. Image: World Economic Forum

    Compare this with software developers, who could have 28.7% of their tasks automated by LLMs and 43.2% augmented. Analyzing data and systems performance are among the automatable parts of the job, while evaluating the products and technologies and writing instructions are all augmentable.

    Roles that lean more towards physical activity are also less automatable. This includes manual labourers, hairdressers, agricultural workers and highway maintenance workers.

    Have you read?

    The sectors most exposed to AI

    Financial services is the sector with the highest potential exposure to AI automation and augmentation, according to the report. IT and digital communications are also high on the list, along with the media, entertainment and sports industry.

    Industries with the highest exposure to AI

    However, this does not mean jobs will necessarily start disappearing in these sectors.

    “Industries with high potential for exposure to LLMs have high potential for both automation and augmentation. This suggests that the introduction of these new technologies will change the nature of the labour market but will not necessarily eliminate jobs,” the report says.

    A report from the International Labour Organization came to similar conclusions, saying that “Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) is more likely to augment than destroy jobs by automating some tasks rather than taking over a role entirely”.

    Ensuring workers are equipped to handle the changing nature of their jobs is a key responsibility now facing businesses and governments. The Jobs of Tomorrow report lists four recommendations for making this happen:

    • Develop an adaptable workforce – Provide training programs that give workers AI literacy but also emphasize human skills such as creativity, empathy and strategic thinking.
    • Collaboration between governments and businesses – This will ensure foresight on the changes coming, allowing the creation of new systems and processes and helping workers with job transitions where necessary.
    • Updating labour laws – Continual refinement will be needed to reflect the changing nature of work. This includes reimagining social safety nets and addressing issues of income inequality that AI could exacerbate.
    • Invest in education systems – Curriculums must be designed for the AI era and encourage lifelong learning. Educational opportunities must also be accessible and affordable, ensuring that no one is left behind.

    AI will bring not only automation and augmentation, but also acceleration when it comes to changes in the workplace. The Jobs of Tomorrow report sees these changes as being broadly positive, and a way to “extend human potential and strengthen the resilience of our economies”, but achieving this outcome will depend on cross-sectoral collaboration involving businesses, educators and policymakers.

    The Forum’s Good Work Alliance is helping employers prepare for the major shifts in the talent and jobs landscape that will arise as a result of developments including AI and the green transition. It will create a framework of goals, metrics and targets that will enable organizations to attract and retain the talent they need.

    And for employees, the Forum’s Reskilling Revolution aims to help 1 billion people prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution by providing them with access to better education, skills and economic opportunities.

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    The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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