Dubai: More than a third of Middle East employees are concerned that their jobs will be replaced by new technologies over the next three years, according to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers in
According to the 2022 Middle East Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey, 32 percent of employees said their companies use technology to improve the workplace, which is slightly above the global survey average.
However, about 41 percent of people surveyed were concerned about new technologies replacing their jobs over the next three years.
So, the question that might come to their mind is: Will robots take over the jobs? Short answer, no.
Scott Noson, head of artificial intelligence at PwC Middle East, told Arab News how these concerns are unfounded because more use cases will emerge as the technology advances. As a result, more value will be gained by investing in robots, designing new experiences, and conceiving new ways of living and working.
“When that happens, the knock-on effect will be that more people are needed to train the bots, show how to get the job done and establish the rules that the bot must follow,” he added.
What are they against?
According to Nowson, robots won’t replace most jobs soon or in the long run. He added that while some jobs will be automated, there will be an increased demand for people to work in other fields, which means more job opportunities.
Most robots are purely functional, Noson said, and are only able to perform one task. Today’s most advanced robots include Boston Dynamics – robots that can navigate uneven forests and dance.
“There has been no negative impact on job opportunities, except at the industrial level, which has not been widely adopted in the regional market,” Doaa Soliman, director of robotics at Proven Robotics, told Arab News.
“Technology will free us from routine drudgery and give us the freedom to redefine work in more constructive and socially beneficial ways,” she added.
Despite the skeptics, technology has created millions of jobs and makes up 10 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product, according to Solomon.
Proven Robots, based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, works with customers who need robots to manage visitors, automate processes and speed up jobs that require a robot rather than a human. These businesses and entities range from banking and healthcare to education and events.
“Other companies are government offices that need to organize the check-in process for their buildings and facilities,” she added. Adds to the world of robotics, Ameca is an AI-powered humanoid robot that interacts with visitors to the Dubai Museum of the Future.
The AI-powered Ameca, which is made by UK-based Engineered Arts, is touted as an ideal platform for human-robot interaction. Its “smooth, realistic movement and advanced facial expression capabilities mean Ameca can establish an instant relationship with anyone,” the manufacturer’s website said. According to a statement, the Ameca robot is the most advanced robot in the world.
The workforce in the new era
Anas Batekhi, managing director of Santicure Health Tech, believes that such technologies will eventually shift the focus to developing workforce talent and investing in people skills development rather than improving operations.
The company uses artificial intelligence through its software solutions to help healthcare professionals intelligently manage, document and bill patients.
Communication and technological understanding are critical, said Noson of PricewaterhouseCoopers.
He added that the fact that 53 percent of respondents in the region reported limited opportunities to learn from colleagues with advanced technology or digital skills is worrisome.
It is difficult for companies to use AI and robotics because the technology is not fully understood, mainly because traditional management thinking is skeptical of change and lacks innovation when it comes to medium and long-term investments, according to Batikhi.
Therefore, if robots are to be widely introduced to any sector of the workforce, there must be a better understanding and awareness of their effects. Most importantly, Noson said, education opportunities and additional skills must be made available to all.
Over the past two years, Solomon said, companies have begun to seriously look at robotics and robotics solutions as a contribution to business operations rather than just a showcase.
“Artificial intelligence is changing the way we work,” she said. Soliman added that technology companies create jobs and opportunities for employee growth by adapting to these technologies. AI is now automating repetitive tasks so that employees can focus on the most important tasks.
Solomon said that while AI technologies have improved and developed many jobs everywhere, including office operations, airports and utilities, physical robots still have a long way to go.
Soliman added that to handle the day-to-day operations of the bot, it is a vital training aspect and a skill that most entities, especially universities and schools, add to their resource groups.
“A unique undergraduate and postgraduate curriculum has been added, with many graduate projects now focusing on robotics and robotics,” she said.
There are many ways for Proven Robotics customers to adopt robotics solutions into their operations, from welcoming visitors and making boardroom room reservations to delivering mail and food.
Therefore, Noson concluded that robotics and AI are intended to augment, not replace, humans.
Companies are always looking for ways to automate new tasks at work, and robots are just one example.
Noson said that automation in hazardous physical environments reduces risks to human life, but it can also reduce burnout in an office environment.
He concluded, “Even if a task is 99.9 percent repetitive, a human will always be needed for the remaining 0.1 percent.”
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