The rise of AI and RPA and its implications on employment

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Aya Gharbawi

Evidenced by soaring Google searches, interest in robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) has surged immensely in recent years. This shift is not without its controversies, especially its impact on employment levels.

RPA 2017 google trend

(Robotic Process Automation Google Trend, 2017

Rising fear of unemployment

Many people including industry leaders like Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking’s and Bill Gates have expressed concerns about the impact that RPA and AI will have on employment.

However, consultants like Deloitte, McKinsey and Nividous argue that if organisations are able to adapt and integrate these new technologies, it will help create more employment.

What everyone agrees is that the changes wrought by AI and RPA are inevitable, and that organisations will have to adapt if they want to survive.

Concerns about RPA/AI

At the World Government Summit (2017), Elon Musk discussed the impact that robotics will have on employment over the next couple of decades and predicted that it would be the preeminent driver of technological change. Musk worries that robotics and AI could cause mass unemployment and undermine society.

However, Musk sees a few rays of optimism if society embraces this inevitable change in the right way. The merger of biological and machine intelligence could also create huge opportunities in the workplace.

Nividous co-founder Shvetal Desai and president Alan Hester agree with Musk. They will give a live presentation in June on the benefits of merging both processes.

Positive views of RPA and AI

Reports by business consultants such as  McKinsey and Deloitte have a more positive outlook and predict that the continuous monitoring of data will minimize errors and slash the time humans spend on repetitive tasks – creating more time for people to become more entrepreneurial.  

McKinsey predicts that companies that adopt current RPA technology can experience return on investment of 30-200% in the first year.  

An article by Forbes puts this into context, measuring the results of RPA and AI in this financial industry:

  • External customer service and internal communication improves
  • More attention is given to crucial areas like money laundering
  • Error free RPA data and operational efficiency


The rapid advance of AI and RPA on the workplace is inevitable. It is vital that businesses understand and work with these changes to improve their businesses for the better and support their employees.

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