Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Industry 4.0, jobs and artificial intelligence

Last week we addressed the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) from a conceptual perspective, examining its different definitions, operation, uses, benefits, and risks. But there is another approach that is linked to industry 4.0, which is also called industry without jobs, where thousands of jobs are supposed to disappear around the world, affecting thousands of workers.

The first thing to establish is that “artificial intelligence (AI) is the engine behind industry 4.0” since it revolutionizes the management and business models of organizations. This has implied an improvement in the optimization of production schemes, making “Just in time” manufacturing more efficient, introduction of new products, changes in consumption and, especially, evolution of the labor market. And this last point is the one of greatest concern, especially due to the unemployment problems that it will involve.

For the International Labor Organization (ILO) the “deepest concerns about the incorporation of new technologies come from their potential impact on the world of work in general, on the productive sectors affected and on specific tasks and occupations”. Likewise, for the ILO it is evident that there is a threat to the generation of jobs at a global level, constituting an industrial model of jobless manufacturing.

For Manyika, Lund et al. (2017), “human tasks such as logistics coordination, managing inventories, paying taxes, providing services, translating complex documents, preparing legal analytical reports and diagnosing diseases, may very soon become occupations without human participation”.

On its side, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad, 2017) also shows concerns about the impact of AI and its counterpart Industry 4.0. For this organism, the new technologies will have consequences on the existing practices and structures of economic life, which includes the destruction of firms, markets and jobs, without a guarantee that the new processes can compensate them.

In 2016, it was estimated that around seven million jobs would be lost over the next five years due to the fourth industrial revolution, affecting women (48%) and men (52%). According to the report sponsored by the World Economic Forum, called The Future of Work (2020), before 2025, 85 million jobs will be lost, a hard blow for the working class, but also a challenge for young people entering the labor market.

It is obvious that all this artificial intelligence and industry 4.0 is having implications for people, companies, governments and educational institutions, which is why authors such as Davies et al (2011) suggest the need to: a) Emphasize development skills such as critical thinking, comprehension, and analytical skills; b) Integrate new media (communication) literacy into educational programs; c) Include learning by doing, which favors the development of interpersonal skills such as collaboration, teamwork, reading social cues and adaptive response, and d) Integrate interdisciplinary training that allows students to develop skills and knowledge.

The challenge is great and, apparently, there is no going back, so it will be necessary to prepare for a world dominated by artificial intelligence.


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