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DUBAI: More than a third of employees in the Middle East fear their jobs will be replaced by new technologies in the next three years, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey published in
June 2022.

According to PwC Middle East’s Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022, 32% of employees said their company uses technology to improve the workplace, slightly higher than the survey’s global average.

However, around 41% of respondents feared that new technologies would replace their jobs in the next three years.

So, the question that may arise in their minds is: will the robots take over? Short answer, no.

Scott Nowson, head of artificial intelligence at PwC Middle East, told Arab News that such fears are unfounded as more use cases will emerge as the technology advances. As a result, more value will be derived from investing in robotics, designing new experiences, and envisioning new ways to live and work.

“When that happens, the ripple effect will be that more people will be needed to train the robots, demonstrate how a task should be done, and create the rules the robot should follow,” he added.

What are they up against?

According to Nowson, robots won’t displace most jobs soon or in the long term. As some jobs will be automated, there will be an increased demand for people to work in other fields, which means more job opportunities, he added.

Nowson said most robots are purely functional and capable of performing a single task. Today’s most advanced robots include Boston Dynamics’ line – robots capable of navigating rough woods and dancing.

“There has been no negative impact on job opportunities except at the industrial level, which has not been widely adopted in the regional market,” Doaa Sulaiman, director of robotics at Proven Robotics, told Arab News.

“Technology will free us from routine toil and give us the freedom to redefine work in ways that are more constructive and useful to society,” she added.

Despite skeptics, the technology has created millions of jobs and accounts for 10% of US gross domestic product, according to Sulaiman.

Proven Robotics, based in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, works with clients who need robotics for visitor management, process automation and acceleration of functions that require a robot instead of a human. These businesses and entities range from banking and healthcare to education and events.

“Other companies are government offices that need to organize the registration process for their buildings and facilities,” she added. Ameca, an AI-powered humanoid robot, will add to the world of robotics and interact with visitors to the Dubai Museum of the Future.

The AI-powered Ameca, made by British company Engineered Arts, is described as a perfect platform for human-robot interaction. Its “smooth, lifelike movements and advanced facial expression capabilities mean Ameca can establish an instant rapport with anyone,” the manufacturer’s website says. According to a statement, the Ameca humanoid robot is considered the “most advanced” in the world.

The new age workforce

Anas Batikhi, chief executive of health technology company Santechture, believes that these technologies will eventually focus on developing the talents of the workforce and investing in developing people’s skills rather than in process improvement.

The company uses AI through its software solutions to help healthcare professionals intelligently administer, document and bill patients.

Communication and technological understanding are key, said PwC’s Nowson.

The fact that 53% of respondents in the region reported limited opportunities to learn from colleagues with advanced technology or digital skills is concerning, he added.

It is difficult for companies to use AI and robots because the technology is not fully understood, mainly because traditional management thinking is skeptical of change and lacks innovation when it comes to medium and long-term investments, according to Batikhi.

Therefore, if robotics is to be introduced on a large scale in any sector of the workforce, there needs to be a better understanding and awareness of its impacts. More importantly, additional education and skills opportunities must be available to all, Nowson said.

Over the past two years, companies have begun to seriously consider robots and robotic solutions as contributing to business processes rather than just for show, Sulaiman said.

“AI is changing the way we work,” she said. Tech companies are creating jobs and employee growth opportunities by adapting to these technologies, Sulaiman added. AI now automates repetitive tasks so employees can focus on more critical tasks.

While AI technologies have improved and advanced many functions everywhere, including office processes, airports and facilities, physical robots still have a long way to go, Sulaiman said.

To handle daily robotic processes, it is considered a vital training aspect and a skill that most entities, especially universities and schools, are adding to their resource pools, Sulaiman added.

“A unique curriculum has been added to pre- and post-graduate studies, with many graduation projects now focusing on robots and robotics,” she said.

There are many ways Proven Robotics customers can adopt robotic solutions in their operations, from greeting visitors and booking conference rooms to delivering mail and food.

Therefore, Nowson concluded that the intention behind robotics and AI is to augment humans, not replace them.

Businesses are always looking for ways to automate new tasks at work, and robotics is just one example.

In hazardous physical environments, automation reduces the risk of human life, but it can also reduce burnout in an office environment, Nowson said.

“Even if a task is 99.9% identically repetitive, there will still be a need for a human for the remaining 0.1%,” he concluded.


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