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Automation may cause disruption, but here's the good news

A recently released World Economic Forum report states that automation will lead to a loss of 5 million jobs by 2020

Shruti Venkatesh
Published: Feb 10, 2016 07:41:35 PM IST
Updated: Feb 10, 2016 08:09:37 PM IST
Automation may cause disruption, but here's the good news
Image: Mexy Xavier

Learnability is the key to tackle disruption that is likely to be caused by automation. This was the unanimous view of the six panelists on the debate 'Will Automation Kill Jobs’, at the post-lunch session on the first day of the NASSCOM India Leadership Summit in Mumbai.

While it was clear that automation will cause disruption, the panel was optimistic of its potential to improve human productivity. For example, automation has improved the jobs of teachers and doctors; not replaced them. Automation will also give humans almost thirty percent more time to focus on non-repetitive or thoughtful work.

The recently released World Economic Forum report states that automation will lead to a loss of 5 million jobs by 2020. The panelists however believe that the only businesses which will be killed by automation are those that do not embrace it.

Ravi Kumar, SVP Global Delivery, NTT Data, said that in the past too, several disruptions have been seen in the technology sector. “We had Y2K, internet and many other things to always catch up to. But computers created a $ 150 billion new industry and changed the face of existing companies way of working for good. The tools, challenges, opportunities, and start-point will always differ from generation to generation. But the key to survive is learning.”

Historically, automation has caused more jobs than it has killed, added Rajesh Nambiar, GM, IBM Services Integration. “If we take a macro view, then automation delivers better efficiency and GDP,” he said.

Artificial Intelligence, for example, is regarded as a tool to leverage more productivity from its workforce.

The concern however is to improve the education system, which is training students for jobs which will not exist. The supervisory structure will change and people will have to be re-skilled, many of whom will not be relevant, by choice or capability.

A word of caution was, in case of a malfunction in automation, the time to react is extremely low, but the quantum of impact is very high. Thus, automation does not sound the death-knell for human workforce, as the equation still remains man plus machine. Automation can change or transform, but not necessarily kill jobs. It is really up to management on how they leverage. And the change is not going to be overnight.

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