Why Business Process Automation May NOT be a Threat to the Workforce

The introduction of AI into our society has been greeted with both excitement and fear from the public. Those who aren’t focused on a robot apocalypse are more concerned about a realistic threat: Ai and business process automation replacing jobs in our workforce. While this threat is in many cases valid, it’s important to note that a variety of research has already gone into the long-term effects of AI in the workforce. Pittsburgh technology companies, for this reason, are urging us to open our minds and educate ourselves about the value that AI can bring to the workforce before deciding to fear it. The experts at Savvior are here to break down reasons why AI may not be a threat to the workforce, and rather, a blessing in a shiny metal disguise.

Expanding Industries and Possibilities

Pittsburgh Technology Companies Increase Opportunity Using AI

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Source: https://www.theverge.com/2018/8/13/17670156/deepmind-ai-eye-disease-doctor-moorfields

One of the most promising arguments for AI benefiting the workforce is the sheer number of jobs that AI actually creates. Early predictions suggested that AI would create more jobs than it replaced by 2020. However, in 2018 alone, a study found that AI added 3x more jobs than it replaced. Additionally, this isn’t costing the American middle class their jobs and has created a high number of opportunities for those without a bachelor’s degree. This means that concerns about AI replacing unskilled labor, hurting the lower and middle class, and increasing income polarization has yet to be found with the introduction of AI into the workforce.

These expanding industries and job opportunities aren’t just proving to be good for the workforce, but have the ability to improve the quality of life for millions of people both in and out of the workforce. With AI being used in the creation of everything from digital assistants to disease-spotting machinery, AI has the power to change the way we live our lives for the better while simultaneously increasing opportunities and workplace satisfaction via the implementation of higher-value skills for unskilled workers.

History Says So

Political Reform in Light of Industrialization Helps Protect Workers

solar panel scientists

If we compare and examine the introduction of AI into the workforce through the lens of the industrial revolution, we can note that the industrial revolution is the reason the global economy has been able to reach the point it is today. Mass production opened doors not only for large corporations but for small business owners and workers alike over time, increasing the volume of jobs and the skill sets needed as growth occurred. 

However, the industrial revolution wasn’t all sunshine and daisies; we saw a jump in the unemployment rate, a rise in child labor, and poor living conditions from those who were displaced by booming industry.

But here’s the thing -- we learned from the industrial revolution that regulation can help. Once strict regulations took place in response to the conditions caused by the industrial revolution, wages more than doubled between 1810 and 1850. These regulations still exist today and are the reason our workforce has regained its strength and flourished (with a few exceptions caused by a variety of confounding variables, that is).

What AI in the workforce challenges us to do is to re-evaluate the regulations and policies that protect the workforce from the damaging effects of automation that so many people fear. Some suggest that automation should happen incrementally - due to the sheer cost, but also as a way to protect the generally unskilled workers it is expected by some to displace - and could be regulated via a tax on corporations looking to implement AI into their business processes. These tax dollars would then be reallocated into institutions that retrain unskilled workers and protect the displaced workers. From a political standpoint, this opens up the opportunity for great thinkers to arise in the name of bipartisan compromise.

Not Everything Can Be Automated

Pittsburgh Technology Companies Investing in AI is an Investment in Human Capital As Well

woman working on an engine

The predicted number of people that business process automation would displace from the labor force varies greatly depending on the source: in some accounts 9% of workforce displacement, in others as high as 60% displacement. However, the majority of jobs are not entirely automatable, leaving even more value in the human labor that remains. In essence, human labor becomes more valuable than ever before because there are parts of a business process that simply cannot be automated. Meaning as corporations invest millions into AI for simple processes, these processes simply cannot work without human interference, making the human aspect of that labor more valuable than ever. Although AI can complete the automatable tasks faster and with less error, it’s important to note that this frees time within human labor to increase productivity on the non-automatable processes. 

This increased productivity across the board lowers the cost of doing business, lowers prices, and can help drive competition and sales. This increase in sales raises demand and creates more jobs over time. Human labor is not entirely obsolete, and because humans are a finite resource, we will continue to see competition among people and companies: the very basis from which capitalism is built on. 

Declining Birthrate Means Smaller Workforce

Fewer Workers with Higher-Skilled Jobs and AI Helps Maintain Growth


The United States fertility rate is at its lowest point in more than thirty years and the TFR (total fertility rate) - the average number of births per woman - is well below the replacement rate at 1.76 and 2.1 births, respectively. While this is brought on by increased education, access to contraception, and a decrease in teen pregnancy, it forecasts a concern for the future workforce. As the share of working-age people becomes smaller than that of the elderly population, a discrepancy forms in the way in which this working-age population will fund social programs for the elderly. 

While the way in which these social programs are funded is highly contested - ranging from an increase social security deduction to riddance of the program altogether a problem we also fear encountering is a smaller workforce in general. Pittsburgh technology companies claim that using business process automation decreases the need for as many unskilled workers, meaning that this smaller working population has the incentive to become more educated and specialize in more advanced fields while the workforce does not suffer due to lack of human capital as a whole.

While fear of the unknown in an increasingly automated society is valid, it’s important to note that AI has proven to benefit the workforce already. Think it’s time to start implementing Ai and business process automation into your day-to-day processes? Get in touch with Savvior today to learn how your business can benefit from automation.