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From assembly lines to stock trading, artificial intelligence will change the landscape of global job markets for years to come. -AFP
From assembly lines to stock trading, artificial intelligence will change the landscape of global job markets for years to come. -AFP

JAKARTA: Robots replacing humans at work? The short answer is “yes”.

It’s a possibility which has been predicted some time ago, though not all lines of work can be done by machines.

The issue was once again in focus when Indonesian President Joko Widodo recently ordered government agencies to remove two ranks of public servants next year and replace their roles with artificial intelligence (AI).

This was part of his efforts to cut red tape, said to be a major reason for Indonesia’s difficulty in attracting investors.

Joko is not alone in his trust in AI at the workplace as Singapore, Taiwan and Russia were among nations that wanted to explore and expand the use of AI.

The results of a 2013 study painted a grim picture of AI dominating the job market in the United States, but a recent survey projected that its use would not be as extensive as predicted.

The 2013 paper by Oxford University academics Carl Frey and Michael Osborne warned that 47 per cent of jobs in the US were at high risk of being automated.

“Jobs with these three qualities are most likely to be automated: repetitive, based on rules and defined physicality,” said the Khmer Times quoting the report.

The report referred to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which stated that jobs with a 95 per cent chance of being automated were cashiers, office and general clerks, secretaries and administrative assistants, bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks, receptionists and information clerks, landscaping and grounds keeping workers, traffic clerks, counter attendants and billing and posting clerks, drivers and sales workers.

Twelve jobs have a 99 per cent chance of being automated, including data entry keyers, library technicians, accounts clerks, photographic process workers and processing machine operators, tax preparers, cargo and freight agents, watch repairers, insurance underwriters, mathematical technicians, hand-sewers, title examiners and telemarketers.

However, a report last year by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) suggested that the forecast from six years ago was overblown.

OECD’s analysis found that only 14 per cent of jobs in OECD countries, including the US, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Japan, were “highly automatable”, meaning that the probability of automation was 70 per cent or higher.

Though the forecast was less dire than that of the Oxford academics’, it was impactful as it equated to about 66 million job losses.

The effects of automation were also felt by the young.

OECD researchers noted that although the assumption was that young people were better equipped to adapt to new technologies, almost 20 per cent of people aged 20 and below in OECD countries worked in low-skilled jobs like cleaning and food preparation, while 34 per cent were in sales and personal services, where jobs were likely to suffer from automation.

Technology, science, art and culture website The Verge said: “These trends are particularly important as they show how this coming wave of job losses could further polarise society between high-paying, high-skilled jobs, and low-paying, insecure occupations.”

However, the Oxford academics acknowledged that  some work would continue to be difficult for machines to take over.

For example, reporters were rated at 11 per cent automatable and considered safe from big-scale automation.

Also at the top of the Oxford paper’s “Safe List” were elementary schoolteachers, physicians, surgeons and lawyers, who were at 0.4 per cent risk while musicians and singers were rated at seven per cent.

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