Yes, in certain types of occupations, machine learning technology has already started to replace humans. It is believed that as more investment goes into machine learning (and more organizations and companies implement this tech) that machine learning will take over even more roles usually taken on by humans.
However, it is worth remembering that whilst machine learning will end up replacing humans with some kinds of work, it will equally create as many job opportunities too and even enable people to do their job better than before.
What is machine learning?
Machine learning involves automated algorithms that find patterns in colossal amounts of information and makes links with this data that a human could not. Machine learning solves problems, not a human. The human defines the problem for the machine learning model to fix.
Machine learning is increasingly being used for complex solutions, as humans are only needed to define the problem for the computer, and then it analyses and finds the solution itself.
Machine learning in the workplace
In a study carried out by Oxford University, Yale University and AI Impacts that involved talking to 352 machine learning experts about their predictions for AI (which machine learning is an offshoot of) in the workplace, some interesting results materialised.
The experts who participated in the survey predicted when they believe the crossover point is likely to be when machine learning technology will end up performing better than humans can. They believed that machines will:
- Be better at translating languages by 2024
- Outperform humans writing essays by 2026
- Be able to drive lorries by 2027
- Outperform in retail by 2031
- Outperform as a surgeon by 2053
The study even possibly suggests that there is a 50% chance AI and its related technology will perform better than humans in 45 years time!
Jobs susceptible to machine learning - or are they?
Researchers at PWC suggest that approximately 30% of jobs in the UK are threatened by automation from robotics and AI by 2030. This was deemed higher in particular sectors than others such as transport, wholesale, retail and manufacturing.
Professions deemed less likely to be threatened by machine learning included education, social work, and the healthcare sector. At the same time, it is impossible to say that any industry is immune from possible machine learning developments and AI.
However, one interesting aspect that PWC highlighted is that it is much more likely that simply the nature of the job will change, as opposed to disappearing altogether.
Machine learning aiding productivity?
Another thing to consider is that in some roles, machine learning and AI capabilities may allow people to be more productive in their roles, rather than hindering it.
For example, advanced technologies like natural language processing can streamline data mining through the application of algorithms to model topics. In areas such as customer service or insights, this can be highly beneficial, allowing a team to get on with implementing a strategy based on this information rather than having to spend large amounts of time data mining instead.
Machine learning can absolutely be a force for good in many professions, given that it can ensure that complicated tasks, such as those involving big data, are carried out with speed, and high levels of accuracy too. This can also allow workers to be far more creative and could aid innovation if machine learning can take care of a complicated, repetitive tasks, whilst employers can pursue their ideas they wouldn't have time to consider otherwise.