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Join A Trade Union Before Your Boss Replaces You With AI

CBI calls on government to establish technology commission involving employee representatives

Five years ago it was cloud that was out for your traditional IT job. Now, as we plummet towards the second decade of the new millennium, everyone’s favourite marketing buzzword—AI—is actually morphing in to a very real threat to employees tasked with repetitive job roles more effectively carried out by a computer.

Alarming predictions of unprecedented job losses aside, there’s no denying artificial intelligence is a real threat to jobs; it not only saves money but also offers up unmatched efficiency and all of the other benefits associated with the vast, quantitative insights of machine learning and artificial intelligence applications.

Commission 

So today, the UK’s Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is urging Theresa May’s government to pull together a commission examining AI’s impact on British workforces as early as next year. In the report (sponsored by Vodafone), CBI argues that the UK has a “golden opportunity” to lead the way in unlocking the potential of new technologies, but it’s the government’s job to set up a commission involving employee representatives to examine the impact of AI. This commission would then arrive at recommendations for action and policy moving forward.

“Much is made of new technologies and how they will impact companies in 10 or 20 years, but these are no longer ideas on the fringes and are shifting rapidly into the business mainstream,” said Josh Hardie, CBI’s deputy director general.

“The UK must lead the way in adopting these technologies but we must also prepare for their impacts. That’s why we urge the Government to set up a joint commission on Artificial Intelligence in 2018, involving both business and employee representatives, to better understand the impact on people’s lives, jobs and our future economic growth.”

It’s good to see CBI include the call for employee representatives to be involved. Britain’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) has already done a stellar job of examining the impact of AI in the workforce. TUC said that the deployment of AI and big data in the UK will be “just as profound” as the impact automated assembly lines and self-service checkouts across the country. But the outlook isn’t great for humans—TUC estimates some 15 million jobs lost to automation.

Act now

It’s worth noting that despite endless attempts to anthropomorphise artificial intelligence in the media—mostly accomplished through a plethora of images likening computers to stock images of Terminator and other killer robots—it’s your bosses that actually want to kick you out. Ergo, it’s your bosses who you need to be talking with right now to discuss if a) your role can be carried out by a machine instead of you and b) perhaps your company would like to offer some free in-house training so you can actually continue your mortgage payments.

There’s solid grounding for the latter. CBI noted in its report that there’s indeed a shortage of specialist AI skills in the UK. “Traditionally the development of AI has been in the academic field, translating those skills into a commercial environment is a hurdle for businesses,” the report points out. “Only a third of pioneer businesses say their company has the skills and capabilities needed to adopt AI technologies.”

Quiz: How well do you know Apple?

Main image: Christopher Sessums/Flickr