Automation of Jobs: The Rise, Risks, and Unknowns

“I say this to everyone in the media world who I talk to,” says Darren Atkins, wrapping up our phone interview: “Please, absolutely do not portray this as a hidden agenda to get rid of staff.”

Atkins is the Chief Technology Office for AI automation at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust – group of hospitals employing more than 10,000 staff, who serve a quarter of a million people in the South East of England. “If this technology is applied in the wrong way, it can be very threatening,” Atkins says. “Our main priority is to free up time for staff to do the work that they should be doing, rather than the work that has no value.”

Just over a year ago, Atkins led the deployment of virtual workers across his group of NHS hospitals – and according to him, it’s been an unqualified success. Patients are missing fewer appointments and staff are happier. Which, as a result, means happier patients.

This is a story seldom told about the coming wave of high-tech automation in the workplace, with all the associated concerns for automation’s impact on the jobs market.

So, is automation at work a good thing? The story, inevitably, is a little more complex.

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