CXO

Why the number of jobs that will be replaced by robots is lower than you think

A recent report from research firm Forrester claims that AI tools and robots will have eliminated only 6% of jobs by 2021. But, that's just the beginning.

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Image: iStockphoto/DanielVilleneuve

Few trends in technology have caused the level of panic and uncertainty in the job market as artificial intelligence (AI). The impending "robot revolution" has brought questions about what jobs, if any, will be replaced by bots, and when it will happen.

While some have posited that robots will replace nearly all jobs, and free up humans to work on more creative endeavors, others have been more reserved in their predictions. A new report for Forrester Research claims that, by 2021, "intelligent agents and related robots" will only have eliminated 6% of jobs.

"By 2021, AI within intelligent agents will evolve significantly beyond today's relatively simple machine learning and natural language processing (NLP)," the report said. "Emerging applications will feature improved self-learning and more complex scenarios. As basic agents gain consumer adoption, next-generation AI will not power intelligent agents until 2020 or beyond."

SEE: Why AI could destroy more jobs than it creates, and how to save them

However, that doesn't mean that AI won't affect jobs in the short term. According to the report, the maturation of these intelligent agents will replace many daily tasks associated with certain positions.

Technologies such as chatbots, digital assistants, robotic process automation, and cognitive computing will lead the charge. The main disruptive potential of these technologies is in customer service, logistics, taxi and truck driving, and the automotive industry, the report said.

The year 2021 will see AI and similar technologies affect marketing as well. Being able to add context and offer suggestions will continue to transform how customers interact with brands.

"Broad business impact will happen as AI matures and customer analytics and marketing vendors improve their insight platform offerings," the report said.

Despite the low number of eliminated jobs by 2021, that is only the beginning of how these technologies will affect work. The Forrester report noted that 2021 is that year that a "disruptive tidal wave will begin," and industries will be more deeply affected.

"Solutions powered by AI/cognitive technology will displace jobs, with the biggest impact felt in transportation, logistics, customer service, and consumer services," the report said. "Early movers who have amassed large data sets will have created a baseline set of AI/cognitive services. Other disruptors will begin to use these services to scale their businesses and steal customers from competitors."

AI and robots will provide a significant competitive edge to businesses, especially after 2021. However, it is important to prepare for the increased competition by investing in these technologies now.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. A new Forrester report claims that only 6% of jobs will be lost to AI and robots by the year 2021.
  2. The automotive industry, customer service, taxi and truck driving, and marketing will be the first to be affected by these trends.
  3. After 2021, a "disruptive tidal wave" will occur that will see even greater displacement of certain jobs by these new technologies.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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