Inside The 2016 Consumer Electronics Show

At Davos, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty Downplays Fears of a Robot Takeover

Fortune – IBM CEO Ginni Rometty made an unusual appearance at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to ease fears that robots (with the help of IBM’s Watson) will soon take over the world. Instead, she believes that AI will help humans become better at solving problems, not replace them entirely. She also touted Watson as a “cognitive” system rather than one of “artificial intelligence” because the term “carries some baggage.”

Some of that “baggage” is the fear of humans losing jobs to robots and automation. A 2015 study from McKinsey concluded that 45% of the activities that workers do today could already be automated if companies choose to do so. And some already are, especially if it improves their bottom line. A Japanese insurance company, Fukoku, recently replaced 34 white collar jobs with IBM’s Watson Explorer. The company will earn a two-year ROI and save 140m yen a year. But while the McKinsey statistic focuses on the jobs artificial intelligence will take away, it doesn’t account for the jobs it creates. For instance, this fall Amazon posted 400 new jobs it needed to fill due to the success of its digital assistant Alexa.

Perhaps this is why estimates vary wildly on the impact of robots and automation on job loss. “One 2013 study from the Oxford Martin School suggested that 47% of U.S. jobs were at high risk from automation, but a 2016 working paper from the OECD gave a significantly lower estimate—9%,” cites Fortune. Whether you call it artificial intelligence, cognitive systems or machine learning, the impact of these technologies on society still remains unknown. And people fear the unknown. LINK