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IBM says managers that use AI will usurp those that don't

Automated technologies will cut jobs but it will also lead to more opportunities, according to the tech giant

IBM's headquarters, seen through a bush

AI won't replace managers but managers that know how to use it will usurp those that don't, according to IBM.

The comments were made to CNBC by the tech giant's senior VP of cloud and data, Rob Thomas, in reference to the uptake of virtual assistants during the pandemic.

Thomas suggested that the trend is set to continue as we move into the new year with more and more businesses tapping into cloud-based technologies. Much has been made for the potential for AI to be used in the workplace in place of humans, but Thomas said it's more likely that employers will mix the two together. 

"AI is not going to replace managers but managers that use AI will replace those that do not," Thomas told CNBC. "This really is about giving our employees, our executives, superpowers.

"One of the biggest things we saw take off with the pandemic was virtual assistants, so how do you care for employees, how do you care for customers in a distributed world and that's why we've seen hundreds of different organisations going live with things like Watson Assistant."

The discourse around technological displacement has moved on as rapidly as the tech itself. While there is no doubt that jobs will be lost to artificial intelligence, many experts believe it will also create work and some even suggest it lead to more.

A report from the World Economic Forum, published in October, estimated that automation would eliminate 85 million jobs by 2025, but predict it would also lead to the creation of 97 million new ones. It implies that the real issue is getting workers to learn new skills before their livelihoods are placed in jeopardy.

In the UK, 1.5 million people could have their jobs replaced by machines or software, according to the Office for National Statistics. British bank NatWest cut more than 500 jobs in august to reduce costs because of the pandemic. Much of that workload seems to have been taken up by IBM's Watson platform. 

"We've done a lot of work with NatWest and they're using AI to help their customer service," Thomas said. "Now, are they automating some customer service tasks? Absolutely, but then they could take all of their customer service employees and have them work on the hardest problems, which means now they're seeing an increase in customer satisfaction." 

Even employees at a tech giant like IBM are not safe from technological displacement. The firm recently announced 10,000 job cuts in its European divisions as it plans to spin off its legacy business. 

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