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Transforming Jobs in the Age of AI


文 / 乔卢克巴恩斯 译 / 周晓玲

By Joe Luc Barnes

The future of labor in a digital economy has become a heated topicalongside the emergence of artificialintelligence (AI). Will the proliferationof AI and robotics herald human redundancy as a working species?

自人工智能(AI)出现以来, 数字经济时代劳动力的未来已成为一个热门话题。AI 和机器人技术的广泛使用,是否预示着作为工作物种的人类将会变得多余?

This prospect has inspired pessimismin many Western countries that is notshared by most Chinese. Indeed, according to a survey compiled by theDentsuAegis Network1, just 18 percent of Britishand German citizens feel that new digitaltechnologies will create job opportunitiesover the next five to ten years. In China, acountry with a labor force of around 800million, 65 percent of people believe thatAI will create even more work.

众多西方国家对此现象忧心忡忡,而大部分中国人却不然。的确,根据电通安吉斯集团的一项调查,只有 18% 的英国和德国公民认为新数字科技会在今后的 5 到 10 年创造出新的工作岗位。在拥有约8 亿劳动力人口的中国,则有65% 的人相信 AI 会创造出更多工作机会

1 电通安吉斯集团属于电通集团(Dentsu Group,日本最大的广告与传播集团),提供高水准的媒体、数字和创意传播服务。


Government backing


A major factor is that few governments are empacing the digital agewith as much gusto as China. In July2017, China’s State Council set a national goal of becoming the world’s primary AI innovation center, aiming to foster an AI industry that produces in excess of one trillion yuan (US$147.7 billion) by 2030.

一个重要原因是,少有他国政府如中国一般热情拥抱数字时代。2017 年 7 月,中国国务院确立了国家发展目标,要争取成为世界主要人工智能创新中心,到 2030 年形成总值超一万亿元人民币(1477 亿美元)的 AI 产业。

Such enthusiasm has seeped rightdown to the municipal level, with localgovernments especially keen to supportstartups in the sector.

这种热情已渗透至市政层面,地方政府尤其重视扶持 AI 初创企业。

“The business environment in Chinaand especially Shanghai is very attractive,” says Ste phane Truong, founderof Actionable Data, an AI consultancyservice company. “I have seen a lot ofinitiative from several city districts suchas collaboration withincubators2 topropose ancillary services, organizingcompetition for financial subsidies andproviding a flexible fiscal policy.”

“中国,尤其是上海的营商环境极具吸引力,”AI 咨询服务公司安潮信息科技创始人斯特凡张说,“上海市几个区政府积极推出了多项举措,比如与创业孵化中心合作提供相关服务,组织企业争取财政补贴,以及提供灵活的财政政策。”

2 incubator 企业孵化中心,也称企业孵化器或高新技术创业服务中心,是一种新型的社会经济组织,通过提供研发、生产、经营的场地,通信、网络与办公等方面的共享设施,系统的培训和咨询,政策、融资、法律和市场推广等方面的支持,降低企业的创业风险和创业成本,提高企业的成活率和成功率。

But Beijing has perhaps created themost fertile environment for tech startups. The capital’s Zhongguancun area isknown as China’s “Silicon Valley” dueto concentration of tech startups basedthere. Its proximity to China’s two premier academic institutions, Peking andTsinghua universities, makes it a happyhunting ground for new talent.



Disappearing jobs


One startup is Oriental iFly, whichaims to use AI to create an automatic grading system for essays that provides instant feedback to teachers on students’ work and saves time spent marking.

东方讯飞教育科技有限公司正是这样一个初创企业。它致力于利用 AI 技术建构作文自动评分体系,并即时向教师提供反馈,节省教师批改作业的时间。

I asked one of the company’s productdesigners, Kailin Xie, whether this innovation might put teachers out of work.


“Teachers aren’t hired to grade,” sheasserts. “As long as there are students,teachers will be necessary. Grading isjust an extraneous part of the job. Ourproduct enables a teacher to save dozensof hours a week on marking essays.”

“老师的职责不是批改作业,” 她说,“ 只要还有学生,教师就必不可少。批改作业并非一定要由教师来做。我们的产品能使老师每周节约几十小时批改学生作文的时间。”

Is a school likely to pay those teachers the same for less work? Or will itinstead use those extra hours to givethem more classes, which would reducepersonnel requirements?


Such questions could be some ofthe defining issues of the digital age.Should companies use AI to increaseproductivity and profits, or do they alsohave a duty to improve the day-to-dayroutine of their employees?

在数字时代,以上这类问题可能非常关键。公司应否使用 AI 来提高生产效率和利润?是否也有义务优化员工的日常工作?


Business optimism


Much of the tech community has adopted the belief that these problems willsimply sort themselves out. This is certainly the attitude of Stuart Leitch, founder of Lollipop.ai, a Seattle and Shanghai-based software company that uses AIto improve customerengagement3with online products. “Firms have a very bad habit of hiring for unnecessary positions. The employees aren’t bad, but their duties usually involve repetitive, painless and low-value work.”

大部分科技行业从业人士相信,随着时间推移,这些问题自然会迎刃而解。Lollipop.ai公司创始人斯图尔特利奇显然也持这种态度。这是一家总部位于西雅图和上海的软件公司,利用 AI 技术提升在线产品的顾客契合度。“许多公司存在一种积弊,即为不必要的岗位招聘。虽然招来的员工素质并不差,但他们往往从事着 重复性、无须动脑、低价值的工作。”

3 customer engagement 顾客契合,是一种心理状态,它是由在核心服务关系中与核心机构 / 客体(如品牌)互动、共创顾客体验产生的,在共创价值的服务关系中以一种动态的、重复性的过程存在。

“We want to release people fromthose positions and reduce the cost ofthat kind of work so those people cando more meaningful things. At the endof the day, we expect to create jobsacross industries rather than put peopleout of work,” explains Leitch.


But what of the manufacturing jobsthat have served as the backbone ofChina’s economic growth? Many arelikely to go, admits Denny Xu, vicepresident of the Shanghai Haihe ITCompany, which produces intelligentspeech robots.


“AI will change future employmenttrends and patterns,” he explains. “Now,the labor force is too costly, so lower-level labor will largely be replaced byAI-related technology. But humanswon’t be completely unnecessaryhuman-machine coupling will becomea future trend for enterprises and busi-nesses.”

“AI 会改变未来的雇用趋势和模式,”他解释道,“当下劳动力太昂贵,因此低层次劳动力很大程度上会被 AI 相关技术所取代。不过人类并非完全多余人机融合将会成为企业的未来趋势。”