A report recently presented by the Pew Research Centre in the US predicts that professional roles such as doctors, lawyers and accountants could be replaced by artificial intelligence by the year 2025. This could have huge implications for a range of industries such as health care, transport and logistics. VoR’s Juliet Spare reports.

Many supermarket checkouts in Britain are no longer manned by an assistant. Paying in cheques at a bank no longer requires a cashier. You can even check yourself in for a flight at an airport without having any interaction with a human being until border control. It is also possible to return on a biometric passport for a machine ready with retina recognition software ready to verify your identity.

These are all examples where artificial intelligence and machines have superseded the need for a human being to carry out an administrative job.

Meanwhile a report recently presented by the Pew Research Centre in the US predicts that professional roles such as doctors, lawyers and accountants could be replaced by artificial intelligence by the year 2025.

Futurologist Ray Hammond told VoR: “I think they’re going to eat away at the middle classes – the administrative functions like insurance companies and banks. I think it’s highly unlikely by 2025 that they’ll be taking over from doctors and lawyers…but by 2035, that’s a different matter entirely.”

But, Ray Hammond predicts that blue collar jobs, traditionally working class roles will be saved from being taken over by robotic technology:

“Funnily enough, blue collar jobs are safer, they are very flexible. A carpenter won’t do the same job twice. It’s the admin jobs which are more at risk.”

The Pew Research Centre asked 1,900 technology experts whether they thought that Artificial Intelligence and robots would displace more jobs than they would create by 2025. They agreed and disagreed in equal measure.

A recent report by the International Federation of Robotics suggests that between 2008 and 2011, robotics created up to 80,000 jobs in the electronics sector. The report based on data from research firm Metra Martech, concluded that for every robot deployed, 3.6 jobs are created. By 2016, robotics is expected to account for an additional 110,000 electronics jobs across the world.

However, futurologist Ray Hammond predicts a very different future:

“The human cost is considerable and it’s worrying me for the first time in the 30 odd years that I’ve been looking at the future.

“Unemployment is a very bad thing, it’s bad for humans not be wanted to work, and I’m worried about it.

I think for the first time we are facing technological unemployment which is what the economist John Maynard Keynes forecast a century ago. He said by 2030 we’re going to have significant technological unemployment and I think he’s going to be proved right.”

But the president of the International Federation of Robotics says the worldwide demand for smartphones, computers and video game consoles depends on robotic automation.

Hammond’s concern is that demand will be met by a supply of robots, leaving large scale unemployment.

“Out of large scale unemployment, even if there are benefits, you get immense social unrest and it’s something of great concern.

“No doubt about the economic outlook – it’s very good indeed, but not necessarily the social outlook. There’s a greater inequality creeping up in the western world than we’ve ever really seen its almost going back to the Victorian periods of capital accruing more capital and working people getting less than a share of it.”

Director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University Professor Nick Bostrom says the development of artificial intelligence poses one of the biggest risks to humanity this century.

“It’s one of the greatest existential risks that humanity will confront in this coming century. All the risks will arise out of human activity from certain technological development in this technology, synthetic biology, nano techno and artificial intelligence.”