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I-TEAM: How artificial intelligence is changing the workforce

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 8:40 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - From school and doctor’s visits to work and workout classes, we’ve done it all virtually for more than a year. Technology has kept life going during the pandemic but it’s also changed life at home and at work. The pandemic accelerated the use of AI in the workforce.

Liz Owens found it’s transforming the future of jobs everywhere.

A report by World Economic Forum predicts half of all employees will need reskilling or upskilling in just four years because of recent advances in technology. No matter the resume no matter the industry.

A tap and a swipe and your order is now being prepared. A couple clicks and zoom into work.

“The trends in technology and use of technology has accelerated because it’s really helped people to work and continue to be productive without putting their health at risk,” said Dr. Peter Bluestone.

Dr. Bluestone is a senior research associate with the Fiscal Research Center and Center for State and Local Finance at Georgia State University.

“There’s a lot of confusion about what AI is in our research we tend to look at advanced technologies,” he said.

He studies the impact of artificial intelligence or AI in the workforce.

“When we think about AI it’s more than just automation than just a machine doing a mechanical process for lack of better word concussive thinking. It’s a reasoning and we are seeing some of that with consumer finance and banking healthcare,” he said.

Angela Allen works at AU.

Has the pandemic accelerated the use of AI?

“Absolutely. One of the benefits of artificial intelligence is speed,” she said.

Saving doctors valuable time as COVID began to fill hospitals.

“We have been using these AI technologies to comb through the medical records in a way that used to take a provider weeks to comb through,” she said.

In turn, speeding up clinical trials and treatment times for patients.

“What we want to do is provide more information and reduce the workload of the physicians so the physicians can more easily access the patient and have more face-to-face time,” she said.

In the medical field, AI is saving lives. In other fields, AI is killing jobs. One of the leading jobs that’s going to be impacted is hospitality.

The I-Team analyzed this study published by Georgia State University. We found office and administrative, sales, food preparation and serving, transportation and production have more than a 70 percent chance of automation. These occupations account for more than over half of all jobs in Georgia.

We found the workers most at risk are those in restaurants. More than 20,000 people work in that industry in Augusta.

A staggering 87 percent of them will have their jobs possibly cut because of AI. Touch screen menus is already cutting down the need for order takers and McDonalds is even experimenting with a smart burger flipper.

Our I-Team research found this will deeply impact low income workers who only earn about $21,000 a year.

The blog, Artificial Solutions, states the “Findings thus imply that as technology races ahead, low skill workers will reallocate to tasks that are non-susceptible to computerization. For workers to win the race, however, the will have to acquire creative and social skills.”

But some skilled jobs are at risk too. 16 percent of healthcare jobs statewide could go automotive.

Does this mean healthcare jobs could be going away?

“The short answer to that is no. That is not something in the immediacy and the reason for that while this creates an opportunity for a physician to reduce their time of reviewing those thousands of charts it still requires the physician to go in and agree that was an appropriate selection for the patient to join a clinical trial,” said Allen.

“When a computer system does a job it frees up a person to do another job that the computer is not very good at,” said Dr. Bluestone.

Jobs characterized by soft skills including management, counseling and the arts are skills in need of a human touch, not a touch screen.

Dr. Bluestone says the best way to prepare for the future workforce is through training which will require a partnership between state and local governments and private businesses.

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