Discussions about artificial intelligence (AI) inevitably turn to how many jobs the technology will take away from humans. Although some industries, such as manufacturing, will see considerable job loss, starting in 2020, AI-related job creation will cross into positive territory—reaching two million net-new jobs in 2025, according to research from Gartner.


“Many significant innovations in the past have been associated with a transition period of temporary job loss, followed by recovery, then business transformation—and AI will likely follow this route,” says Svetlana Sicular, research vice president at Gartner. “Unfortunately, most calamitous warnings of job losses confuse AI with automation, which overshadows the greatest AI benefit: AI augmentation. This augmentation is a combination of human employees and AI intelligence, where both complement each other.”


On the one hand, use of AI will indeed eliminate some middle- and low-level positions, to be sure, but it will also improve the productivity of many jobs, and as Gartner notes, create millions of new positions of highly skilled, management and even entry-level and low-skill level jobs. Consequently, the onus is now on IT leaders to not only focus on the projected net increase of jobs, but with each investment in AI-enabled technologies, they must take into consideration which jobs will be lost, which jobs will be created, and how this evolution will transform how workers collaborate with others, make decisions and get work done, Sicular says.


“This is the time to really impact your long-term AI direction,” Sicular says. “For the greatest value, focus on augmenting people with AI to enrich people’s jobs, re-imagine old tasks and create new industries. This also is the time to transform your culture to make it rapidly adaptable to AI-related opportunities or threats.”


For example, AI applied to non-routine work that is more varied due to lower repeatability is more likely to assist humans than replace them because combinations of humans and AI will perform more effectively than either human experts or AI-driven machines working alone. Gartner forecasts that by 2022, one in five workers engaged in mostly non-routine tasks will rely, in some part, on AI.


“Using AI to auto-generate a weekly status report or pick the top five emails in your inbox doesn’t have the same ‘wow’ factor as, say, curing a disease would, which is why these near-term, practical uses go unnoticed,” says Craig Roth, research vice president at Gartner. “Companies are just beginning to seize the opportunity to improve non-routine work through AI by applying it to general-purpose tools. Once knowledge workers incorporate AI into their work processes as a virtual secretary or intern, robo-employees will become a competitive necessity.”


What are your thoughts on AI augmentation? In particular, how do you think AI can be leveraged to improve the speed, accuracy and efficiency of your existing supply chain

planning processes? Secondly, what impact do you think use of AI will have on the ability to address complex sourcing issues?