Will a robot take over your job?

Half of all jobs will soon be taken over by artificial intelligence, according to Kai-Fu Lee, a leading Chinese technologist. Martin Ford, an expert in artificial intelligence and author of Rise of the Robots on the other hand predicts a full-on worker revolt that will not just change the job market but also the economy of the world. But will robots really render us obsolete? Will their presence offer more personal freedom or lead to greater social inequality? Gulf News readers debate.

  • Amir YazdanpanahImage Credit: Supplied
  • Gaurav ChhikaraImage Credit: Supplied
  • Mohammad ZuhairImage Credit: Supplied
  • Svitlana VoznyukImage Credit: Supplied
Gulf News


You can’t hand over billion-dollar work to robots

I don’t think a robot could ever do my job. I have various reasons to think so. My job involves continuous analysis of data and historical experiences within the oil and gas sector. We also have to attend several meetings based on the data and projection.

Even though a computer could technically analyse data, somebody needs to input details first. It is impossible to have that done automatically. Also, I do not think a robot could do the analysis-based work, it could probably just be used for collection and display of data.

When it comes to petroleum engineering, ultimately you are dealing with what lies underground and billions of dollars are involved. So, we are the ones that plan what tools should be used, which costs a lot of money. Also, a lot of times, you have to take decisions on the spot.

Also, there are contracts that are being negotiated by the service providers and these negotiations cannot take place with robots because they are all based on off-site or historical data in each field.

However, robots could help with a lot of things that are done off-shore. They could look after small jobs.

On the rigs, at the moment, we do have some automated systems but there is always someone who is overseeing the projects.

From Mr Mohammad Zuhair

Petroleum engineer living in Abu Dhabi


Robots should take over labour intensive jobs

I seriously doubt that a robot could do my job in the future because I am into marketing, sales and communiction. Communication is all about that something that differentiates animals from human beings, so I don’t think a machine can step in.

On a lighter note, if you look around we do have robots working in a lot of professions ... they’re just human beings who’ve become very robotic with their work. They just log in, follow the tasks and then log out after the day is over.

But in all seriousness, I do not think robots can replace human beings completely.

I am not against the idea of robots existing in the workplace, and I would be happy if they would take over jobs like mining or construction, where the environment isn’t always suitable or safe for the people working. So a machine can actually operate in those environments. Another area I would really love to see robots in is space travel and that is already happening.

But what would people do if their jobs are taken away? How do we generate income? This is something governments and large corporations would need to take a look at because the introduction of robots would definitely make social inequality worse. We are already struggling to keep parity between the rich and poor. You would need to train the workforce so that they are able to take up newer jobs.

From Mr Gaurav Chhikara

Corporate communications manager living in Dubai


This is the fourth industrial revolution

AI and robots will never replace the human workforce completely. However, they will cause a significant change in jobs of the future. UAE in two decades will be a country of highly skilled professionals that live in the most modern, smart cities.

AI Robots create a whole new generation of smart technology — more powerful, more intelligent and more accessible than ever before to empower human beings. One simple example of how AI can serve a greater good is whenever worldwide visitors will come to the UAE they will use autonomous 3D-printed trolleys, that will easily follow them with a smart sensor. These trolleys will answer questions in 16 different languages, will give guests all the information about their flights and shopping experiences.

I would also agree that the capability to think creatively or innovate is still the exclusive privilege of human beings. AI Robots will actually facilitate human beings to be more creative, as they collect and analyse huge amounts of data, which is crucial for correct and creative decision-making.

However, in a global economy, unfortunately, robots will increase social inequality, as those who want to be a part of smart societies will be able to invest in Stem (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, people from emerging markets and economies will have fewer opportunities to cope with these challenges.

But I would agree that robots and AI are going to bring in the fourth industrial revolution after steam, mass production and electronics.

From Ms Svitlana Voznyuk

Marketing Director at a Dubai-based robotics company


Projections that half the work force will be automated in 20 years are too ambitious

I disagree that robots would take over half the workforce in the next 20 years. It will probably take a lot longer, say in the next 70 years.

And it wouldn’t necessarily be robots that would be the main contributors, instead it is machine learning and artificial intlegience.

We are long way away from fully automating manual jobs but once that is achieved, there will be automation of creative jobs. For now, humans and robots are going to be working in partnership for the next two decades. Where robots, AI and machine learning algorithms will definitely assist human beings in disease control and prevention, forecasting climate change and space travel. It will be a partnership where we use faster processing power and the amount of data that is available to robots to make faster decisions.

We think of AI as humans writing programmes that give instructions to a computer. But machine learning is changing. We no longer give them a set of instructions, we give the machine an algorithm that allows it to use the data it receives and the outcome of events to teach itself how to do things better. So, the buzz around AI now is the computer writing instructions for itself.

But is creativity just the privilege of human beings? I’d like to think so but I don’t think that is completely true. Because you define creativity by ability to come up with an original idea. When we think of an original idea, the way our brain works is it is a combination of inspiration from experiences and memories. So, if you remember that smell of jasmine from your grandmother’s home, it inspires you. Creativity also factors in the knowledge you have gained over the years, of say playing music. So, if you have learnt notes, and understand rhythm and beats, you can create music accordingly. Now imagine if the same information was available to a computer, it knows how people in Austria reacted to Beethoven’s music in a particular year. It is able to process it fairly quickly. We learn rhythm and beats, which are the same as basic algorithms that can be fed to computers and subsequently be overlaid over what good and bad audience reactions. Now the computer is in a postion to create something unqiue because there is so much randomness built into this creation and so much complexity that in the way that it is created that you might just call it creative.

Now the algorithms are becoming evolutionary they overwrite themselves and make better algorithms. The economic dynamics will change for the better, it’ll probably become more in the hands of governments to institute the new economy.

From Mr Amir Yazdanpanah

Founder of a technology education provider

Gulf News asked: Do you think a robot could do your office work in the future?