The Fear of Automation - Are We Prepared?

President Trump signed an executive order for the “American AI Initiative” to guide AI developments and investments in the following areas: research and development, ethical standards, automation, and international outreach.

SIG University Certified Intelligent Automation Professional (CIAP) Program graduate Jolene Checchin discusses how technology and automation have changed our personal lives and how it will continue to evolve the way we work.

When “The Jetsons” cartoon made its debut in 1962, we could not imagine the futuristic automation they created. We thought it would be unrealistic to have flying cars (Terrafugia), jetpacks (Hoverboards), video calling (Face Time, Skype), robotic vacuums (Roomba), and much more. Now, fifty-eight years later, their future is our present, and to some, this can be unsettling.

Evolution of Technology

As a Baby Boomer, our generation has watched the evolution of technology at such a fast pace. I sometimes wonder if we really comprehend the changes. Just looking at how we can communicate today, we have gone from shared phone lines to cellphones, and we thought call waiting was a big deal! We can communicate, on the road, in the air, via video, email, text, and our social media resources are endless.

We have the ability to do our banking, pay our bills, and do our grocery shopping from anywhere we are. Some think purchasing a TV requires a degree in IT; from SD to OLED, do we really have a clear understanding of what any of that means? Instead of getting up to change the channel, we just want the ability to talk into a remote and tell the TV what we want to watch. We have appliances that cook while we are at work, and our refrigerators can now make grocery lists and place food replacement orders for us.

Then there is Alexia and Siri, who can perform all those tasks for us. If we have a question, we can just shout it out, and they answer. It has been easier for us to accept the changing technology in our personal lives, and we love the conveniences. Still, until it affects us we do not see some of these technologies have replaced a human.  

The speed in which we continue to produce technology, robots, and artificial intelligence is increasing every year. Lower-skilled workers are being replaced, and most do not even have time to prepare and develop or advance with the changes.

Impact of Automation

In 2019 Oxford Economics reported that by the year 2030, robots will replace 20 million jobs, about 8.5% of those will be global manufacturing jobs. China stands to lose 14 million jobs in manufacturing alone. With AI becoming more normalized, thirty-seven percent of workers between 18 and 24 are worried about their jobs being eliminated by new technology. McKinsey Global Institute predicts 40 to 160 million women worldwide will need to transition to higher–skilled roles as automation continues to evolve.

How do we embrace the technology at work as easily as we do in our personal lives? Most workers welcome simplifying and improving the output of our day to day activities. We need our world, business, and education leaders to set the course for positive change.  

President Trump signed an executive order for the “American AI Initiative” to guide AI developments and investments in the following areas: research and development, ethical standards, automation, and international outreach. HBR reported in early 2019, Business world leaders recognize they need to equip their employees with skills that will create a lasting career path and employees must realize what is expected as technology evolves.

Our education system is taking a “stay curious and don’t stop learning” approach to prepare for automation. We are left to wonder if these changes are enough to help a line worker be replaced by a robot, a bank teller being replaced by online banking, or the clerk whose job has been automated – only time will tell.

Automation and Employment

There are, however, reports with positive statistics being released.

World Economic Forum: automation will displace 75 million jobs but generate 133 million new ones worldwide by 2022.

Gartner: AI-related job creation will reach two million net-new jobs in 2025.

McKinsey Global Institute: worldwide, with sufficient economic growth, innovation, and investment, there can be enough new job creation to offset the impact of automation. In some advanced economies, additional investments will be needed to reduce the risk of job shortages. In the US, there will be net positive job growth through 2030.

We are relying on companies like Amazon, who is investing $700 million to train 100,000 employees by 2025. Amazon employees who are filling boxes in warehouses may be the industry's next engineers. This should be a precedent for more companies to continue the charge to invest and train their employees for the future and a better understanding of AI.

A December 2018 Dun & Bradstreet survey of AI World Conference and Expo attendees found that 40% percent of respondents' organizations are adding more jobs due to deploying AI within their business, and only 8% are cutting jobs due to AI implementation. Mining data from more than 50 million job postings, ZipRecruiter found that AI created three times as many jobs as it destroyed in 2018. Hopefully, we can take some of the apocalyptic scenarios with a grain of salt until weupdate statistics.

The Certified Intelligent Automation Professional program is a six-week course delivered through SIG University’s unique education platform. Visit our website to learn more about intelligent process automation and enroll for the upcoming semester.


Jolene Checchin, Procurement System Administrator, CDK Global

Resourceful, reliable, and detail-orientated professional with a background in financial services, management, and over 17 years of purchasing, P2P System Administration an support, inventory management, supply chain analysis, and sales experience.