Artificial Intelligence will not eliminate jobs in Asia, but it will deconstruct them

Asia-based senior executives in global firms believe that the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics on their business performance in Asia will be immediate, profound, and positive. In Asia's AI agenda: the Deep Dive Editions, MIT Technology Review is re-examining the technology, venture capital, government and enterprise strategy trends that are converging on this region to drive innovation and adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and how specific Asian markets are taking advantage of these trends. This was based on a survey of Asia-based senior executives (including human capital professionals) to gather perspective of the impact of AI and robotics on Asia's business landscape.

This holistic view of AI’s trajectory, and how it is manifesting in each of four markets—Singapore, China, Australia and India—has revealed that advances in automation technology are quickly changing the way Asia’s firms manage and develop their human talent, forcing them to examine the very nature of what a ‘job’ means.

Overwhelmingly, respondents felt technological advancements in AI and robotics will have very positive effects on most industrial sectors in Asia. While much of Asia lacks the depth of technical skills and R&D facilities needed to keep pace with AI development, there are significant pockets of the ‘natural resources’ Asian economies need to promote and develop their own machine-learning capabilities.  China, India and other large Asian economies generate a copious amount of data, which is critical to pushing AI's capabilities forward. Australia and Singapore, despite their small sizes, each punch well above their weight in the development of ‘indigenous’ AI R&D resources, and have clear visions for how machine learning can complement and enhance the competitiveness of their established leading industries.

Ironically, given a common presumption that AI will be responsible for disintermediation of jobs at all levels, it is Asia's massive human capital dividend—the billions of constantly Internet-connected workers and consumers –that will propel AI development in the region farther and faster. AI may start to disintermediate roles and responsibilities across Asia’s economies, but it will enhance and redefine far more capabilities, and increase the productivity of all firms and workers.