• Fraser Harper

The work task and the capabilities of AI

The work task and the capabilities of AI[1]

There have been several studies of the impact and relationship of AI to the content and amount of work tasks and consequently employment levels. Estimates vary as to the number of jobs which can and will be automated vary greatly and these are tabulated below.

Table 1: The Employment Impact of AIResearch StudyImpactCountryFrey and Osborne[2]47%USAFrey and Osborne/Deloitte[3]35%UKOECD[4]9%21 OECD countriesPWC[5]38%USAPWC[6]30%UKMcKinsey Global Institute[7]45% (automatable)USAMcKinsey Global Institute[8]5%


One of the weaknesses of many automation studies is the jump between a task which can be automated and the whole occupation being impacted. Others make the jump between what can be automated by AI and what might be automated by AI. One route to avoid these types of methodological challenges is to apply a simple matrix when viewing tasks and the degree of displacement and impact[9].AI Application AreaLevel of Automation[10]012345Create highly granular prediction and classification models Perform structured digital tasks Manipulate information Understand human speech and text Plan and optimise operations Perceive and recognise images Move purposefully and autonomously around the world Assess human emotions

Note: 0 = no assistance from technology; 1 = human assistance from technology; 2 = partial automation; 3 = conditional automation; 4 = high automation; 5 = full automation

Now by following this simple matrix allows a structured judgement to be made as regards the impact AI might have upon a specific work task, and allow suitable mitigation plans to be developed.


[1] This blog draws heavily on the excellent book: Davenport, T.H. (2019) The AI Advantage. How to put the artificial intelligence revolution to work. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 231 pages

[2] Frey, K-B. and Osborne, M. (2013) The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation. Oxford Martin Institute.

[3] Deloitte (2015) From Brawn to Brains: The Impact of Technology on Jobs in the UK. Deloitte.

[4] Arntz, M.; Gregory, T. and Zierahn, U. (2016) The Risk of Automation for Jobs in OECD Countries. OECD Research Paper.

[5] Berriman, R. and Hawksworth, J. (2017) Will Robots Steal Our Jobs? The Potential Impact of Automation on the UK and Other Major Economies. PWC UK Economic Outlook.

[6] ibid.

[7] Chui, M.; Manyika, J. and Miremadi, M. (2015) Four Fundamentals of Workplace Automation. McKinsey Global Institute.

[8] Manyika, J. et al (2017) Harnessing Automation for a Future That Works. McKinsey Global Institute.

[9] See Davenport (2019) op. cit. pages 129-148.

[10] “Path to autonomy: self-driving car level 0 to 5 explained”, Car and Driver, October 2017


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