UK Company Embraces AI, Will Cut 55,000 Jobs
The rapid rise in artificial technology capabilities over the past several months has led to serious concerns on multiple fronts.
In addition to the threats posed by “deep fake” videos and the privacy risks associated with AI advancement, many prominent figures are fretting about the toll this technology will have on the employment market.
Some estimates suggest that AI could eliminate four-fifths of all human jobs within just a few years — and the trend appears to already be underway.
Reports this week from the United Kingdom confirm that telecom giant BT plans to lay off as many as 55,000 of its 130,000 employees by the end of this decade. The company plans to use AI systems to automate at least some of those positions.
BT CEO Philip Jansen celebrated the decision as a positive move from a business standpoint.
“By the end of the 2020s, BT Group will rely on a much smaller workforce and a significantly reduced cost base,” he said. “New BT Group will be a leaner business with a brighter future.”
He touted developing technology as a way “to do things much more efficiently,” though the shift comes at the expense of the employees who will be losing their jobs to AI machines.
“All the equipment’s simpler and newer and more flexible, more nimble. And we´ve got AI and all the data that can help create self-healing networks,” Jansen added. “So we´re going to be a massive beneficiary on efficiency and costs, which is why we know we won´t need all these roles in the future.”
Meanwhile in the U.S., television and film writers are on strike in part due to their concerns that AI could spell the end of their livelihood. For comedy writer Miranda Berman, the stakes are all too serious.
“This is only the beginning,” she said. “If they take writers’ jobs, they’ll take everybody else’s jobs, too. And also in movies, you know, like, the robots kill everyone in the end.”
Indeed, some doomsdayers predict that AI could bring about the end of humanity.
But Ben Goertzel is one of the AI defenders who think the technology will ultimately be a net positive — even though he admits that there are serious short-term concerns that he cannot address.
“I don’t think it’s a threat,” he said. “I think it’s a benefit. People can find better things to do with their life than work for a living. … Pretty much every job involving paperwork should be automatable. The problem I see is in the interim period, when AIs are obsoleting one human job after another. … I don’t know how [to] solve all the social issues.”