The issue of the impact of artificial intelligence ("AI") on the workplace unleashes fierce passions: Some fear - sometimes rightly - a massive destruction of jobs in the coming years because of the emergence of AI. Others are more moderate and rather anticipate an evolution in the way we work, through the adaptation and redefinition of jobs, and the creation of new opportunities. What is the real truth?
"History shows us that previous periods of transition did not always run smoothly" 1.
It is true that the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in the 15th century - 2018 marks the 550th anniversary of Gutenberg's death - hastened, despites the bitter struggle led by master writers and illuminators who formed a guild (i.e. an association of craftspeople in a particular trade), the disappearance of the copyist's profession2. Similarly, the industrial revolution in the 18th century led to the elimination of many categories of jobs, including that of "canut"3.
However, the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg also entailed the creation of the typesetting profession. The industrial revolution, "stream of innovations"4, has indisputably played a leading role in the development of new ways of working (such as Fordism5) and, correlatively, in the creation of new trades and new types of jobs. Schumpeter wrote "The process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of creative destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. It is what capitalism consists in and what every capitalist concern has got to live in".6
The process of "creative destruction"7 should most likely apply once again with the advent of AI, thereby leading to the creation of new functions, in particular for the supervision and maintenance of AI systems.
In addition, and with all due respect to alarmists and prophets of doom and gloom, many studies show that less than 10% of jobs would be at risk: According to a recent analysis made by McKinsey & Co, fewer than 5% of occupations can be entirely automated and about 60% of occupations could have up to 30% of their constituent activities automated 8.
This is the reason why it is necessary today to redefine certain jobs/occupations, and to rethink workers' education and training: Cédric Villani calls for "an adaptation of the initial education offer which prepares citizens for traditional...