Artificial intelligence, that old sci-fi villain, is making its presence felt across global industries. AI has allowed for automated processes ranging from manufacturing to customer service chatbots. Automation and AI are even driving marketing technology, allowing sales professionals to target personalized recommendations to individual customers. With the widespread implications of this technology come both positives and negatives. Some industries will benefit while others may suffer.
One of the biggest fears around automation is that it will cause a mass displacement of jobs. While that may be the case, it is also certain that a massive number of new jobs will emerge to manage new processes. At the same time, the human touch will always be needed. Jobs like artists, writers, hairdressers, teachers, even maintenance and retail workers, will be consistently safe from automation.
But the consequences of AI can mean more than just job availability. The impact of automation in certain sectors has the potential to improve our health and safety as well as our production methods. Ultimately, this means there will be some pros and cons in how automation plays out.
Here’s who they are by industry.
Automation will undoubtedly affect jobs. In an ideal world, this means increased opportunity exceeding the layoffs that new machines might cause. Some experts have even predicted this to be the case with widespread industrial automation, estimating that 3.5 million jobs would be created versus the 800,000 displaced.
In these three economic sectors, AI and automation might stand to benefit more than suffer:
In the world of online marketing, the more you can automate, the better. Since marketing is a field that will always require human input, most marketing jobs will be safe from the automation brought about through AI. Instead, marketers must balance AI with emotional intelligence.
AI can analyze big data sets to form helpful insights. Everything from customer behaviors to demographics can be parsed through smart tools to create more accurate customer profiles. This means unlimited marketing insights at a fraction of the work, leaving marketing professionals to craft the best possible content for their target audience.
Smart farming is the future of agriculture, potentially saving immense amounts of time and labor in the production of food. This is only possible through the power of AI, which can monitor factors like moisture level in the soil and respond instantly. The result of automation through Internet of Things (IoT) devices and robotics can then cut down on hard menial labor while increasing production and quality. This means more food for the world.
AI and automation have the potential to revolutionize the supply chain industry. From IoT to advanced data analytics processes, fleets can be managed with expert insights provided by machinery. Vehicles are now being equipped to assess driver behavior and improve safety. Meanwhile, more efficient routes and freight loading processes are possible all the time through AI analysis. As a result, our roads can become safer and our air cleaner.
But this is not to say automation is all good or that many in these sectors might not also lose jobs. Automated food production, for example, could disrupt an entire sector of low-income workers. In fact, it is often the low-income workers who take the brunt of the losses when their jobs are automated.
In the event of widespread automation, it is difficult to say what portions of the displaced workforce would be able to learn new skills or transition into a new field. The number of individuals and families that might experience economic difficulty is hard to estimate. Fifty-four percent of employees believe they can save 240 hours annually through automation, and this savings definitely will not come without consolidation of the workforce.
In these three sectors, automation may be particularly damaging to the average worker:
Over five million job losses have occurred in the manufacturing sectors across the U.S. and Canada, 85% of which have been because of automation. Robotics and AI have made production exceptionally easy and fast but often at the cost of jobs. This might be beneficial in terms of output but can damage job prospects and local economies. Transformational education and training programs redirecting workers into new sectors of the economy could recover these losses, however. It will require a concentrated effort to ensure the workforce is prepared for these changes.
Second highest in a list of industries likely to be automated is food service. Next to manufacturing, this is one sector of the economy in which the use of automation could likely disrupt the lives of the low-wage workers who occupy these positions by replacing them completely. Restaurants have already been experimenting with robotics of all kinds. With the money that could be saved in fast food, large-scale automation will almost certainly be a move of the future. However, this will also change the nature of food service positions, leading to more regulatory roles alongside the machines. As a result, wages could increase across the industry.
While the fleet management and supply chain industries will experience all the positives of a shift to automation, the drivers themselves will be placed in a difficult situation. Fully autonomous vehicles are coming soon, and when they do, the reduced costs and liability will make them the choice of the trucking industry. Between 2-4.4 million jobs across the U.S. and Europe could be lost in a full transition to autonomous trucking.
At the same time, though, the driver industry is experiencing massive labor shortages already that are causing shipping problems and raising prices for consumers. An automated shift can save money and change the roles of drivers to more regulatory functions, assuring that autonomous trucks function properly.
With both positives and negatives inherent in the adoption of more powerful tech, industries must individually explore their automated futures. For marketers and industrial farmers, these shifts could represent a positive change. For many others, the vast number of jobs lost will mean a complete change in the economy. This will create big questions for the labor-based market, where a person’s profession is often closely tied with their identity.
As automation spreads throughout every industry, humankind must address these questions and challenges to make the most of the future.
The original version of this article was first published on Future of Work.