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Workers at least mentally prepared for robots to take over some of their work

One-fifth of workers are mentally prepared for technology to take over some of their roles, but employers must do more to support them

More than a quarter of workers think 20% of their daily tasks could be automated through artificial intelligence (AI) and robots, and 10% believe up to 60% of their role could be taken over.

A survey of 11,362 people in nine countries, carried out by YouGov for Konica Minolta, also revealed that 45% of people globally expect that AI technology will one day be able to carry out intangible, even creative tasks. In the UK, only 34% believe AI will eventually take on intangible roles, compared with 56% in Japan.

A total of 37% of respondents said they were concerned about being replaced by technology and 61% said they would be unhappy receiving instructions from a robot or AI.

The survey also asked people how they thought automation through technology could benefit them. Just over a quarter (26%) said they could spend more time developing workplace skills, 20% said they could improve business processes, and 20% said they would increase communication and collaboration with colleagues.

Separately, Cognizant’s Centre for the Future of Work said it expected new machines to enhance more jobs than they replace. “More than 80% of teaching, nursing, legal and coding jobs will be made more productive – and satisfying – as the most monotonous tasks are transferred to machines,” said Cognizant.

Its research said the disruption that technology would cause to businesses and societies was only in its early stages. In the years to come, AI will seep even further into how financial health is safeguarded, how families are insured, how people can heal and govern themselves,” it said.

Cognizant said jobs and businesses would be affected, adding: “It is true that machines will replace some occupations and make some current skills irrelevant, but the analysis shows that as machines can do more and more of nearly everything, people will be even more vital to value creation.”

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But speaking at an event to discuss the future of work, hosted by Konica Minolta, author Douglas Coupland said there was likely to be a period of uncertainty caused by the pace of change.

Coupland’s novel Generation X: Tales for an accelerated culture, which tells the stories of a group of people in the generation born between the early 1960s and early 1980s – known as Generation X.

He told Computer Weekly: “People always say ‘don’t worry, we will invent new job categories’ and I think in the past this has been more or less the case, but we are dealing with algorithmic technologies that have no historical or ontological precedence.

“We are at this hyper-accelerated pace now. We are going to lose jobs faster than we create them and during that different zone it is going to be very politically unstable. I hope governments have a plan B.”

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