In the frenzy over the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on the workforce, many have focused on blue collar jobs, as some reports predict that half of low-skilled US jobs are at risk of being replaced by automation in the near future. However, in reality, a wide array of white collar jobs are already being impacted by the technology, according to a New York Times report.
AI may soon replace millions of office workers worldwide, according to Kai-Fu Lee, CEO of Sinovation Ventures and former president of Google China. "This replacement is happening now, and it's happening in a true, complete decimation," Kai-Fu Lee told a conference at MIT in 2017. "In my opinion, the white-collar workforce gets challenged first—blue-collar work later."
This echoed a 2017 Gartner report that found that by 2022, one in five workers engaged in primarily nonroutine tasks will rely on AI to get work done. Applying AI to less-routine work with varied tasks will benefit workers in those jobs, according to Gartner, and the technology will likely assist human workers for more efficiency, rather than fully replacing them.
SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)
Overall, AI is poised to create 2.3 million jobs by 2020, while eliminating only 1.8 million jobs, Gartner also predicted.
Here are three white collar industries where AI technologies are already replacing human workers.
1. Fashion designers
On Indian e-commerce site Myntra, one of the best-selling shirts was actually designed by two computer algorithms working together to match up designs and the store's inventory, according to the New York Times report. Other clothing companies now routinely use AI to decide which clothes to stock, and what to recommend to customers, the report noted.
New platforms like Beagle and jEugene offer legal contract review far faster than humans can, and at a fraction of the cost of typical lawyer fees, as noted by Inc. While legal pros say that we're still decades away from a robot representing a client in court, one company is already working on one based on IBM Watson.
Doctors have been using robotically-assisted surgical tools for more than 30 years, cutting down human errors and surgery times, Inc. noted. Now, several hospitals are using robots like the da Vinci Si to conduct operations. AI is also being used to diagnose patients with different diseases.
The big takeaways for tech leaders:
- While many have focused on the potential for AI to take blue collar jobs, white collar jobs are also at risk, according to some reports.
- AI systems are already augmenting and replacing human workers in the fashion industry, law, and medicine.
- Special report: How to implement AI and machine learning (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
- AI in the workplace: Everything you need to know (ZDNet)
- Machine learning: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- AI investment rising significantly among early adopters (ZDNet)
- Artificial Intelligence Basics for Android (Download.com)
Alison DeNisco Rayome has nothing to disclose. She does not hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.