Will Artificial Intelligence have a disrupting effect on emerging economies?

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At the 2016 World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, a report was presented on the changing global employment landscape attributing it to the Fourth Industrial Revolution which included making technological headway in artificial intelligence, machine-learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing genetics and biotechnology.

The report said that these advances will cause ‘widespread disruption not only to business models but also to labour markets over the next five years'.

Robots

The report also called for enormous change predicted in the skill sets needed to thrive in the new landscape.

At the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington recently, senior computer scientists have cautioned that intelligent machines will soon replace human workers in all sectors of the economy.

"We are approaching the time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task; society needs to confront this question before it is upon us: if machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?" asked Moshe Vardi, computer science professor at Rice University in Texas.

For countries like China and South Korea, which witnessed a booming economy thanks to the availability of cheap labor, this revelation will surely come as a discouraging news. Also, emerging economies such as India, Latin America and Africa may have to reconsider the threat of "premature deindustrialization" which means that low-skill jobs disappear before low-income countries start turning rich- with technology becoming affordable and available.

Back in 2013, two Oxford University researchers, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne had stated that in the coming two decades 47% of U.S. jobs were susceptible to "computerization".

Based on their analysis the duo have now revealed that : "Industrialisation is likely to yield substantially less manufacturing employment in the next generation of emerging economies than in the countries preceding them.
"Increased automation in low-wage countries, which have traditionally attracted manufacturing firms, could see them lose their cost advantage and potentially lose their ability of achieving rapid economic growth by shifting workers to factory jobs," they mentioned in a joint Oxford-Citigroup publication.

Change is the only constant?

On the one hand where concerns are being raised about Artificial Intelligence (AI) having a disrupting effect on emerging economies, there is also an argument in support of the "Robot Revolution", highlighting the very premise of "change is the only constant".

"Innovative, creative and social skills will be in high demand and essential to making you stand out from a crowd of both humans and machines. Creative and technical roles required to maintain computers or robots will probably see man and machine working alongside each other rather than against," writes columnist Neil.C. Huges.

Huges points out that having machines to do all the ‘unattractive and time-consuming tasks' will enable us to concentrate on adding value to what is important to us, boost entrepreneurship and learn to fit the current workload around our lifestyle, rather than the other way around.

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