Robots to displace most jobs in manufacturing and tech

04 August 2015

The robots are coming, with 43% of manufacturing companies across the globe expected to replace more than 5% of their employees with robots in the near future, research by Grant Thornton shows. As more and more R&D is expended on replacing human intelligence with machines, the gap between those ‘in’ and those ‘out’ may soon radically increase. As it stands, more than half of businesses see themselves keeping their employees on board, with 28% redeploying them to operate the machines that replaced their function.

In a recent survey of 2,571 executives in 36 economies, Grant Thornton investigates how executives see the role of automation in their sector, as well as its projected effects on workers whose role is being replaced by robots. The article, ‘Jobs under threat from automation’, asks respondents whether they expect automation to replace at least 5% of their workforce, by industry.

Automating industry
The results show that the industry in which automation is most likely to affect more than 5% of workers is manufacturing (agreed to by 43% of respondents). This is followed by the renewables industry at 39%, technology at 35% and food and beverage also at 35%. The areas least likely to see reductions are education and healthcare, at 9%, and hospitality, also at 9%.

Steven Perkins, Global Leader for Technology at Grant Thornton, reflects on the coming changes: “In this digital age, businesses are looking to technology at an ever increasing pace. Post-financial crisis, firms continue to strive for greater efficiency and better productivity. But fifty years on from PCs going into mass production, costs of capital are low while labour costs increase. As businesses consider whether to invest in staff or machines, for many, the latter is becoming the more cost-effective option.”

Developing toward automation
The research further highlights that current R&D trends are accelerating the development of automatized processes. The number of businesses that invested in their development increased from 23% in 2011 to 26% in 2014, and will hit a five year high in 2015 as spending increases a further 29%.

The question of whether highly creative humans are creating the technology that will make non-creative jobs – yet intelligent jobs – redundant in the near future is still an open question to Perkins, who adds: “Are robots set to replace the workforce? That may be premature; technology has been introduced to the workplace since the industrial revolution and job roles have adapted accordingly. In fact, it’s likely the wrong question. We should be asking: ‘What human capabilities will be most enhanced?’ Clearly, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), supercomputers and sensors previously the preserve of science fiction will have profound consequences for jobs, pay and the makeup of workforces.”

One consequence of the trend may be that, with the movement of people from high paid to lower paid – thus less intelligent – work, income inequality will increase further. Perkins reflects that: “This poses significant societal challenges. Technology is part of our lives in ways we couldn’t have imagined two decades ago, from the rise of big data to the app revolution. That trend will continue and it means the shape and size of workforces of the future will look radically different to those of today. How businesses and governments deal with these changes will be critical to long term economic growth prospects.”

Redeploying workers
The surveyed employers are not immediately planning to cut staff. More than half of the surveyed companies plan to redeploy affected staff. Of those kept, 28% expect the old employee to operate the machinery that replaces them. However, Perkins stresses that the long term effects of automation remain unknown. “The roles reserved for humans could look very different years from now and some will feel the effects more sharply. Automation in the first industrial revolution made us stronger, made us faster in the second, and in the third will give tremendously greater insights. The possibilities are enormous.”

Grant Thornton is not the only consulting firm to consider the looming effects of automation. Research by Aecus finds that robotic process automation is already implemented 32% of 100 CxO’s surveyed, with 44% more planning to deploy the technology in the coming three years. Alsbridge expects, with the help of robots, clients of their robotics hub may be able to achieve a 60% reduction in the cost of many IT services. Recent research from Deloitte and the University of Oxford finds up to 1/3 of UK jobs might disappear in the near future with the wide spread social and economic consequences still needing to be carefully considered by stakeholders.


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Red Consultancy drives interest in Schubert's formerly Unfinished Symphony

08 March 2019

Strategic communications firm Red Consultancy collaborated with Huawei to demonstrate the potential of artificial intelligence. Huawei engaged an AI programme on one of its smartphones to help complete Schubert’s famous Unfinished Symphony, almost 200 years after the maestro commenced its composition.

Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D 759, commonly known as the Unfinished Symphony, is a musical composition that Schubert started in 1822. While the Austrian composer lived another six years, he left the piece with only two movements. The reason he left it unfinished – despite having made sketches some way into a third movement – continues to be discussed and written about, and has two centuries of classical music enthusiasts wondering what might have been.

Despite numerous attempts, it remains one of the most intriguing pieces of unfinished symphonic music of all time. Now, the world may finally have an answer to the conundrum of just how it might have ended, however, thanks to work from technology firm Huawei. The Chinese multinational ‘completed’ the piece, some 197 years after Schubert last set it aside, with the assistance of artificial intelligence (AI) running on one of the company’s smartphones.

By running an AI model from the Huawei Mate 20 Pro smartphone – which was designed specifically with AI-based tasks in mind – Huawei was able to analyse the timbre, pitch and meter of the existing first and second movements of the symphony, before generating the melody for the final, missing third and fourth movements. At this point, Emmy award-winning composer Lucas Cantor was enlisted to arrange an orchestral score from the melody that stayed true to the style of Schubert’s original structure. 

Walter Ji, President CBG, Huawei Western Europe, explained, “At Huawei, we are always searching for ways in which technology can make the world a better place. So, we taught our Mate 20 Pro smartphone to analyse an unfinished, nearly 200 year old piece of music and to finish it in the style of the original composer. We used the power of AI, to extend the boundaries of what is humanly possible and see the positive role technology might have on modern culture. If our smartphone is intelligent enough to do this, what else could be possible?”

The final, Huawei-completed piece was brought to life with a live performance at the iconic Cadogan Hall in London on the 4th February. The 67-piece English Session Orchestra performed to an audience of over 500 guests, showcasing for the first time this unique ending to Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, illustrating the potential of human talent augmented with AI in the process. On the back of this, Red Consultancy worked with Huawei on a viral marketing campaign to deliver the final product to millions of listeners across the globe.

Red Consultancy is a professional services firm which offers advisory services to clients looking for PR, digital and content expertise via its 140 staff in its Soho offices. The firm develops and manages campaigns, runs major press offices, and steers brands and businesses through engagement with media, consumers, customers, stakeholders and internal audiences both domestically and internationally. According to Red Consulting, its Huawei campaign has already resulted in over 11 million views of the Unfinished Symphony video content, from more than 1,500 pieces of international media coverage, and an estimated reach of nearly 900 million.

Commenting on the story, Maureen Conlon, Huawei Lead Director at Red Consultancy said, “Working with an ambitious brand like Huawei challenges us to consistently think outside the box and come up with truly unique and creative campaigns. For Unfinished Symphony, we worked with the client from initial ideation all the way through to activation and the Huawei team at Red Consultancy could not be more thrilled with the result.”

Related: Red Consultancy handed new role with Munchkin.