IBM & MIT Future of Work - Watson AI Lab IBM MSP Hub

The Future of Work: How New Technologies are Transforming Tasks

Artificial intelligence will eventually bring about changes in a surprisingly large percentage of jobs.

100% of jobs, in fact.

This is the finding of important new, ground-breaking research undertaken and recently released by the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab.

As Martin Fleming, Vice President and Chief Economist of IBM, explains:

“As new technologies continue to scale within businesses and across industries, it is our responsibility as innovators to understand not only the business process implications, but also the societal impact.”

Fortunately, while every occupation will be affected in some way or another, the research also found that few jobs will actually disappear.


IBM Watson analytics and the uncovering of the Key Findings

To discover just how jobs are changing due to the advent of artificial intelligence, IBM and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) combined their resources and knowhow to utilise the advanced machine learning of IBM Watson analytics, analysing 170 million online job postings in the United States between 2010 and 2017.

It clearly demonstrates how – even now, in a period of the early stages of AI adoption – tasks and roles are being transformed, precipitating an impact on employment and wages.

Indeed, the way we work is fundamentally changing.

Until recently, new technology – even robotics – has tended to result in the automating of repetitive or arduous tasks, while often leading to new roles and responsibilities for workers.

The tasks that can now be undertaken and acted upon by machine learning are much broader in scope than previous generations of technology have made possible.

This expanded scope is changing the value employers place on tasks and roles, and the types of skills most in demand.

Yet unlike traditional robotic technology, which significantly impacted mid-wage workers, artificial intelligence and machine learning technology offer potential benefits as well as challenges.

Few, if any, occupations comprise of tasks that are wholly suitable for machine learning.

What will be required, of course, is an ability to continually rethink and reorganise traditional working practices and occupations, integrating them with new technological capabilities to optimise the relationship between man and machine.


Shifting Tasks Between People and Machines

Across more than 18,500 tasks for each occupation, workers were on average asked to perform 3.7 fewer tasks overall in 2017 than seven years earlier.

Tasks that can be adequately undertaken by AI or machine learning are fast disappearing from employers’ job requirements, far more frequently than those requiring the input of a worker.

This decrease in certain task requirements is undoubtedly the result of employers seeking greater focus from workers, along with an early adoption of AI and machine learning.

Overall, it indicates a fundamental shift in the way work is scheduled and achieved.

Looking at the research in more in detail, we find that certain roles are affected far more than others.

For instance, among tasks such as scheduling and credential validation, which are more suitable for machine learning, workers were asked to perform 4.3 fewer tasks.

Occupations that are less suitable for machine learning, however, including design and industry knowledge, saw workers being asked to perform only 2.9 fewer tasks.

That’s a 46% difference.

Tasks that are grounded in intellectual skill and insight, or require to some degree physical flexibility, common sense, judgment, intuition, and creativity, have actually tended to increase in value to employers.

In fact, as technology reduces the cost of some tasks, the value of the remaining tasks that make up an occupation increases.


New Technologies and the Transformation of Work

There is no question that the emergence of artificial intelligence and its related technologies will affect all jobs.

This first-of-its-kind study reveals just how much tasks and roles are transforming, along with implications for employment, wages and society in general.

The advent of machine learning in particular poses a new set of challenges for work and workers.

Yet it also opens up new opportunities.

Martin Fleming said, “This empirical research from the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab sheds new light on how tasks are reorganising between people and machines as a result of AI and new technologies.”


Are you interested in discovering how the unprecedented changes in how we work are likely to affect your and your clients’ businesses?

Then you can access a succinct press release on the main findings here, or simply download the full report.

You can also explore, experience and deploy the new technologies behind the AI-enabled transformation, including IBM Watson analytics, by accessing the multiple links available via this site detailing the Ladder to AI.

Back to top