Artificial Intelligence: Why Nigerians shouldn’t fear over loss of jobs to automation

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Just like in the movie, Ex Machina  Demoltion Man    Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine to machine are what we will be expecting in  the future! As machines become increasingly capable to to do things without supervision and having the abilities to take on some functions just like humans, AI  has become a branch of ICT that will take over  the ecosystem,Nigeria inclusive. We have seen a lot inroad that the AI has made in the areas of banking and electronic learning. Though, sluggishly , unlike what is applicable in other climes, AI is meant to take over many jobs in the country and productivity will increase. Just like the advent of computers, laptop and other ICT devices displaced the conventional typewriter  with a  typist d the conventional personal assistant with digital assistant , so will AI dislodge people. But, there s nothing to be alarmed, the need  align  the country for this is imperative.

Just like it has been predicted in some of the science fiction movies. As it stands today, the future is here and we have seen machines and computers taking over jobs that was being done by humans. Just like the industrial age,  when machines and industrialization displaced a lot of hands in  farms and factories, today, hands are being displaced in an overwhelming manner.

The substitution of human labour by artificial intelligence and robots is a keenly debated topic. While some claim that a substantial share of jobs is at risk, while others argue that computers and robots will lead to product innovations and hence to unimaginable new occupations. One thing that we must agree is that the AI is here and machines are getting smarter while the humans are getting dumber. The impacts of automation technologies are already being felt throughout the economy. The worldwide number of industrial robots has increased rapidly over the past few years.  The falling prices of robots, which can operate all day without interruption. This has led more efficiency in productions and getting more riskier jobs done without putting any human or animals in a harms way.This can be attributed to the importance of AI  and how it affects our lives.

There is no need to be bothered about job loss here s  has been widely speculated. AI will change the labour landscape the way industrialization changed the way labour and productivity is done. It is already happening, take for instance the average desktop computer, before the invention of the computer, typist was a course of study and a job most people, especially ladies were proud of.  Computers displaced the typist, everybody became a typist, typist lost their jobs and computer programmers, software writers,coders, bloggers, hardware and software engineers and  many other people in the ICT value chain gained jobs. Unlike  during the days of typist, its only the typist, the repairman and maybe the seller of the typewriter had jobs. As it was during those days, so it will be during the time of AI. It is already happening. In the banking industry, banks are reducing their operational  expenditure, staff are laid off and AT and automation has taken over. Today, most ATM  can credit accounts and dispense 24/4,transfers are done via ATM and many other banking duties, thereby  rendering the job of average bank teller redundant. But,efficiency and timeliness come to play with AI, installers,robotics engineers, programmers will gain jobs. Just like the typist of old, some jobs will be extinct, jobs  that risk extinction are; bankers (tellers) some front desk, some teachers, models, in sports (umpires) paralegals and a host of others.

According to Bruegel.org;  “Automated teller machines (ATMs) might have been expected to significantly reduce the number of bank clerks by taking over some of their routine tasks. Indeed, in the USA their average number fell from 20 per branch in 1988 to 13 in 2004. But that also reduced the cost of running a bank branch, allowing banks to open more branches in response to customer demand. The number of urban bank branches rose by 43% over the same period, so the total number of employees increased”.

Computers displaced the typist, everybody became a typist, typist lost their jobs and computer programmers, software writers,coders, bloggers, hardware and software engineers and  many other people in the ICT value chain gained jobs. Unlike  during the days of typist, its only the typist, the repairman and maybe the seller of the typewriter had jobs.

In the legal field, the report went further to state that “The introduction of software capable of analysing large volumes of legal documents reduced the cost of search but increased demand for it. As a result, the number of legal clerks (who before the implementation of the software had to search for the legal documents manually in a more time consuming way) increased by 1.1% on average per year between 2000 and 2013 instead of decreasing due to the displacement effect.”

 

The authors conclude that one additional robot per thousand workers reduces the US employment-to-population ratio by about 0.18-0.34% and wages by 0.25-0.5%. The industry most affected by automation is manufacturing. However, interestingly, they only find a weak correlation between the increase of industrial robots and the decline of routine jobs. Will machine to machine and artificial intelligence displace jobs ? The answer is yes. But, a whole lot of jobs would be created, it is left for labour to evolve to suit the new narrative. As Darwin stated in his evolution theory, the fittest and the most adaptable will survive.

 

 

Anthony Emeka Nwosu

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