Though the effects of the third industrial revolution are still evident, the fourth industrial revolution is here, with Artificial Intelligence being the first to enter the scene. With the craze of AI taking over, many people are asking this question: Is AI a threat in the workplace?

With ChatGPT emerging in 2023, it’s a no-brainer that the once ‘taboo’ artificial intelligence is slowly becoming a part of the ‘new normal’, with the fear that it’ll replace manual jobs that directly affect the working class. Furthermore, it is not only factory workers whose livelihood is on the line. Ai is also slowly replacing computer mavericks. These changes are creating panic in both developing and developed countries.

AI has become a story of gloom and doom for many – but in reality, this system has many advantages that can help small businesses streamline their processes and enter competitive markets. Access to chatbots and the safety and production systems set up in the aviation, pharmaceutical, and finance industries makes jobs easier, reducing the time and energy many workers need to put in. Automating tasks makes them easier to perform and makes time for more complex tasks. According to industry expert Mphashe Seokoma, repetitive tasks, such as data entry, can be automated through machine learning, ensuring fewer mistakes in half the time. Grand View Research has estimated that by 2030, the global AI market size should reach $1,811.8 billion, up from $136.6 billion in 2022, with a 38.1% compound annual growth rate. These large numbers should spark fear in anyone, but rather than panicking, we should focus on the advantages of AI Technologies and prepare to embrace them.

Quality of jobs vs. the quantity of jobs

David Autor, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, states that the upcoming AI revolution threatens the accessibility to high-quality jobs. The demand for highly skilled workers will increase, while middle-class jobs will slowly decrease. The Technology of Things (IoT) should include in our educational systems and training vocations. Instead of emphasising jobs such as call centre representatives and boiler makers, emphasis should be on technologically advanced skills. Through achieving this, AI may no longer pose such a threat in first-world countries such as China and the US. But in developing nations such as South Africa and Brazil, AI may find us unprepared – leading to a resource and brain drain for these countries, with highly skilled professionals leaving the country to pursue better opportunities elsewhere.

When the pandemic put a hold on production because of the strict stay-at-home rules, many organisations sought automated systems to ease the loss of revenue. Automation revealed a new world of possibilities, making some jobs easier to perform by the same blue-collar workers who fear the revolution. The heightened influx of AI technology could mean an influx of supply in hands-on industries, such as hospitality and plumbing, decreasing the remuneration available to stabilise the market.

Tech giant Elon Musk plans to create a rival company for ChatGPT-maker OpenAI – if anything, this reveals that AI is here to stay. Furthermore, schools now offer robotics as either an extramural activity or a compulsory subject. The question we must now ask is – are Millennials and Generation Z ready to adapt to the changes that will take place in the workplace?

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