Buck the cull!

The threat of AI taking over jobs is clear and present danger, especially to inefficient workers. Time to upskill and be uptight about efficiency

Buck the cull!

Is it just me or are we all constantly harassed by telecallers nowadays? The silence of the ‘DND’ age lasted only a few years. Now thanks to the various kinds of surreptitious data collection at every step of our digital lives, coupled with our foolish mindset of unthinkingly allowing permission, we are now attacked daily with a barrage of marketing calls. Some are automated, and frankly, beyond our control; but the human callers simply take the crown for usually being irritating in their persistence, unyielding in their regular calls, and unrelenting to points of reason. One such telecaller, Ms Jyoti, from a well-known insurance policy aggregator platform called me on three consecutive days saying the same things — ‘This is a service call. Yes, your policy has been renewed’. Now, here are my responses: Day 1 — ‘Thank you for the information. I don’t require any further assistance’. Day 2 — ‘Hi Jyoti…You called me yesterday too. No further help needed. Thanks’. Day 3 — ‘Jyoti, you have called me thrice. We have discussed this. Please update your systems or else at this rate, you will be replaced by AI’.

Funny yes, but there is a looming threat of Artificial Intelligence robbing human jobs, and workers like Jyoti could be the first one to go. You see, innovations ‘disrupt’ — and this disruption can produce welcome as well as unwelcome changes. Poorly skilled workers, incompetent professionals, and folks with bad attitudes and damaging egos, are like bad eggs; they are meant to be thrown away and AI will only quicken their exit. I concede that AI will increase the handing out of pink slips in certain vocations, and ruthless as it may sound, it is unavoidable. Businesses, big and small, work hard to ensure adept productivity, and if a machine or AI starts doing a job better and at a fraction of human salary, then the outcome is a no-brainer. According to a Goldman Sachs report, generative AI (such as ChatGPT) could increase global GDP by 7 per cent and raise productivity by 1.5 per cent over a 10-year period. In India, adopting AI can enhance the GDP by USD 500 billion by 2025.

2023 ended with big news that Google may lay off a staggering 30,000 employees as AI became more operationally efficient. As per a report by, over 4.25 lakh tech employees were shunted between 2022 and 2023 globally, including 36,000 people who were laid off in India. A survey titled, ‘Future of the Skills Landscape 2024’, by Hero Vired, deduced that about 82 per cent of interviewed professionals feared losing their jobs to AI. Another survey by Randstad stated that more Indians feared job loss due to AI than those in the US, UK, and Germany.

As industries around the world move towards greater use of automation, the possibility of AI replacing slipshod workers is real. This scenario can unfold rather dangerously in a human labour-intensive market like India’s. Here, startup funding has also slowed and businesses don’t have the old luxuries of burning cash. Therefore, when unicorn founder Kunal Shah says that AI will make 90 per cent of the workforce irrelevant within a decade, you sit up and take notice. At a recent public forum, Ministry of Electronics and IT, Secretary S Krishnan, also admitted that it would be naive to think that new tech would not lead to job losses, and that the comparison to the Industrial Revolution was pertinent. There are some fascinating write-ups in the MIT Technology Review that charts the debates and anxieties of successive generations when faced by new technologies. From the 1930s to 1960s to the more recent 2010s, global unemployment was high and yet path-breaking technologies and human worries were taking off.

History repeats itself and we are bearing witness to it now as well. Though the replacement of humans by AI could be far more significant today than in say 1938, causing more job losses and human distress. Sadly, good workers can also be part of collateral damage. Therefore, what should proficient workers or those who really need employment do? You upskill. As per TeamLease Digital, over 16 million Indian workers will require reskilling and upskilling due to AI’s influence by 2027. Companies such as Deloitte and Zerodha have already committed to finding solutions to soften AI impact. The World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates in its ‘Future of Jobs Report 2023’ that clerical and secretarial roles will steadily reduce but there would be demand for AI and machine learning specialists, data analysts and scientists, and digital transformation specialists. Many jobs that existed decades ago, don’t anymore. They were killed by the advent of technology or by their own cumbersome natures. Some jobs will go extinct, new jobs will take their place. Have you decided where you’ll be?

The writer is an author and media entrepreneur. Views expressed are personal

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