Technology has a profound impact on work. Advanced smartphones have made us unable to ignore work emails when we leave the office, but a new technology is set to bring about a greater work-life balance. AI is set to be the key to mankind’s fourth industrial revolution at 300 times the scale and, roughly, 2000 times the impact achieved by electricity. The nature of how we live and work will be transformed.

Just as steam, electricity and the internet allowed for the faster completion of tasks, AI is set to do the same. AI will use above-human intelligence to fulfil the “grunt work” in our jobs. AI can mean a four day work week for many professions as tasks get automated.

What Work will AI Impact?

We are already seeing the reach of AI in everyday tools. AI is performing monotonous tasks we do not want to concern ourselves with. Email responses, suggestions on social media, dating apps and shopping sites are all controlled by AI systems. Job applicants and loan applications are reviewed by machines, not humans. Customer service representatives on the telephone are becoming AI-driven chatbots and businesses are using AI systems to achieve advanced decision making. AI’s unique access to scores of data on hand is a skill no humans can possess.

AI and the Future

AI will impact both blue and white collar workers leading to the rise of a new type of working class. AI has been proven to read x-rays more accurately than medical professionals. Stanford researchers have researched an algorithm that has outperformed human radiologists at diagnosing pneumonia in x-rays.

In the legal field, AI will do the “grunt work” of searching through extensive legal records- work mostly allocated to junior lawyers, allowing them to focus more on tasks requiring greater amounts of subjective or emotional intelligence. The time and payment of legal professions may have to change. AI will cut down the massive task of reading and analyzing legal files. Lawyers therefore can no longer afford to bill their clients on an hourly basis. More free time and more time to focus on invention and innovation- propelling humankind forward.

Factory workers’ and truck drivers jobs will be impacted through self-driving software and automation. It is obvious that self-driving cars will soon become commonplace.While the fatality rate for human drivers is about one per roughly 93 million miles driven, late last year the electric-car company Tesla announced that over 222 million miles had been driven using its Autopilot feature--with only one known fatality. Less time spent driving in traffic will allow us to do other tasks on our way to work. You can no longer say you do not have time to read.

“We believe that machine learning…will help people to get into business opportunities, parse out the activities that they don’t want to do, and focus more on their passions,” said Accenture’s CTO and leader of the company’s Technology Innovation & Ecosystem group, Paul Daugherty.

The rise of a new AI-driven industry

A sure thing is the emergence of a brand new type of work involving the development, control and optimisation of AI. Startups are popping up and long-standing businesses are investing. In 2017, companies spent around $22 billion on AI-related mergers and acquisitions- 26 times more than 2015.

Uber recently bought startup Otto for $680 million. Otto makes self-driving software for trucks. Chip giant Intel recently grabbed Israeli technology company Mobileye for $15 billion. They make nuts-and-bolts equipment necessary for self-driving cars, such as cameras, sensor chips, networking and other software.  nuTonomy owns a small fleet of autonomous cars in Singapore.

Will AI give us a greater work-life balance?

Billionaire Alibaba entrepreneur Jack Ma believes AI will give us a shorter work week, yet we will still feel busy:

"I think in the next 30 years, people will only work four hours a day and maybe four days a week," Ma said.

“My grandfather worked 16 hours a day on a farm and felt that he was very busy. He had only one day off a week. I have two days off a week, I work for eight hours a day, and I feel even busier than my grandfather.”

Jack Ma believes we can try and predict the future that AI will bring, but we can never know for sure:

"Anything that can be clearly defined is not the future. When faced with the future, we're all kids; no one's an expert.”