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June 12, 2017updated 13 Jun 2017 4:38pm

IT directors divided on AI and automation – tech to create or displace jobs?

Will AI create or displace human workers? IT Directors remain divided according to latest BT research.

By Ellie Burns

Automation and AI – you can’t get very far in the trade or national press without stumbling across the buzzwords of the moment. Some headlines project the fear of a robot uprising, with human workers booted out of the workplace in favor of machines. On the other side of the fence you have those who talk about the bountiful cornucopia that is the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where AI and automation cure every social ill of the moment.

For IT directors – well, they are sitting on the fence, according to new research by BT.

Contrary to the robot uprising fear-mongers, one third of organisations who plan to implement AI and automation within the next two years believe it will create more jobs within the workplace.

But, and its a significant but, the same number of organistaions predict that AI and automation could result in widespread job losses, with concerns that intelligent machines will eventually replace manual work done by humans.

This AI uncertainty comes despite a third of those surveyed having already implemented AI and automation in their organisations.

For example, one in four organisations are using automation technologies like drones, robots or autonomous vehicles, with almost two thirds (63 per cent) describing AI or automation technologies as being ‘very beneficial’ to their organisations.

IT directors divided on AI and automation - tech to create or displace jobs?

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A telling finding from the survey is that one in three IT decision makers are planning to invest in AI and automation over the next two years – suggesting that those in IT are prepared to make-up their minds and embrace automation despite fears of job losses. Of those surveyed who plan to invest in AI, 62 per cent believe that their organisations will be more effective as a result.

“This research gives us a fascinating insight into the early adoption of AI, automation and other disruptive technologies in the UK workplace. The findings illustrate the rapid pace of technological change amongst organisations of all types and sizes,” said Colm O’Neill, managing director of major corporates and public sector at BT.

“And while some organisations clearly view disruptive technologies as a potential threat to the labour market, we believe the introduction of new automated technologies and business processes will play to the strengths of both people and machines.

The survey also revealed how the UK public sector also appears to be benefit ting from the early adoption of disruptive technologies.

READ MORE: Report: Automation boosts revenues 15% and creates, not steals, jobs

95 per cent of organisations that operate within the UK public sector are already using at least one form of disruptive technology, compared with 85 per cent of businesses operating in the private sector. Furthermore, almost half of organisations operating within the pubic sector have implemented big data analysis, while 42 per cent of those operating in the private sector are using this technology to date.

When it comes to barriers to AI adoption, it should come as no suprise to many that security is named the top concern. 44 per cent of organisations operating within the public sector believe that greater automation will leave their organisation open to cyber-attacks, compared with 28 per cent of those operating in the private sector.

Within the private sector, larger organisations are the most concerned about the impact of AI, with 40 per cent identifying as it as the technology they consider to carry the most risk over the next two years.

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