Jobs come, jobs go as digital era transforms workplaces

EVERYONE jokes about, or even fears, the idea of machines replacing humans. We all aren’t out of a job yet, but signs increasingly point to the fact that automation can sometimes do things better and faster than humans, and they can operate 24-7 without coffee breaks, sick leave or holiday time off. The recent victory of computer program Alpha Go over top Go player Ke Jie confirmed that no one can sit back and ignore the encroachment of artificial intelligence. The financial services sector is no exception. Technology has been slowly replacing bank clerks since the first ATM was installed in London in 1967. We all now draw cash without any human help. Half a century later, technology has moved on from that innovation. In January, Japan’s Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance announced it would lay off 34 employees and replace them with the IBM artificial intelligence system Watson, which can inspect medical records and calculate the amount paid out in policyholder claims. In March, US investment company Blackrock said it would cut more than 40 jobs and use computerized stock-pickers to run some equity funds. Both companies cited lower operating costs among the benefits of their actions. Research and consultancy…

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