With concerns that artificial intelligence will make human employment obsolete in the coming decades, research firm Gartner is looking to counter that narrative with a new report that finds AI will actually create more than 2 million jobs within the next two years.
However, that rosy scenario will come at the expense of 1.8 million jobs along the way.
In a report released December 13, Predicts 2018: AI and the Future of Work, Gartner analysts estimate that AI will likely create about 2.3 million jobs between now and 2020, along with eliminating some 1.8 million.
It won't be until 2025 that AI strikes a balance and creates 2 million net-new jobs.
The public sector, along with healthcare and education, will see the most gains from AI, with manufacturing taking the biggest hit, with many middle- and low-skilled jobs falling by the wayside. (See Will AI Create More Jobs Than It Destroys?)
Gartner has been fairly bullish on the benefits of AI, especially when it comes to automating many routine IT tasks. At its annual Symposium & ITxpo earlier this year, analysts spoke of using AI and machine learning to overcome the skills gap that many enterprises are facing, especially when it comes to security. (See Will AI Solve the IT Jobs Shortage?.)
The key to AI, Gartner notes, is using it to augment human tasks by eliminate routine work, which can then open up new areas and actually create new job opportunities. By 2021, Gartner estimates that AI augmentation will generate about $2.9 trillion in business value and recover about 6.2 billion in worker productivity.
"For the greatest value, focus on augmenting people with AI," Svetlana Sicular, research vice president at Gartner, writes in the report. "Enrich people's jobs, reimagine old tasks and create new industries. Transform your culture to make it rapidly adaptable to AI-related opportunities or threats."
Some tech firms are already there.
Earlier this year, Salesforce.com Inc. began rolling out a series of machine learning and AI features into its core CRM and sales products that eliminate the more mundane and routine tasks salespeople face. (See At Dreamforce 2017, Salesforce Doubling Down on AI.)
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Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) CEO Satya Nadella has also noted that AI is a key technology for Redmond's future. (See Microsoft Serving a Slice of AI With Everything at Ignite.)
"Companies are just beginning to seize the opportunity to improve nonroutine work through AI by applying it to general-purpose tools," Craig Roth, another Gartner analyst, notes in the report. "Once knowledge workers incorporate AI into their work processes as a virtual secretary or intern, robo-employees will become a competitive necessity."
The Gartner report did make a distinction between AI, and how it can augment human tasks, and automation, which companies such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) are using to create a new generation of networks that are more software-defined, along with being self-correcting and self-healing. (See Automated Service Provisioning: Getting It Right.)
"Unfortunately, most calamitous warnings of job losses confuse AI with automation -- that overshadows the greatest AI benefit, AI augmentation, a combination of human and artificial intelligence, where both complement each other," Sicular wrote.
— Scott Ferguson, Editor, Enterprise Cloud News. Follow him on Twitter @sferguson_LR.