Smart machines and robots are likely to replace highly trained professionals globally in tasks within medicine, law and IT by 2022, according to global research firm Gartner.
"The economics of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will lead to many tasks performed by professionals today becoming low-cost utilities," said Stephen Prentice, vice-president and Gartner fellow.
"AI's effects on industries will force the enterprise to adjust its business strategy. Many competitive, high-margin industries will become more like utilities as AI turns complex work into a metered service that the enterprise pays for, like electricity," added Prentice. But, while AI will hit employment numbers in some industries, many others will benefit as AI and automation handle routine and repetitive tasks, he added.
"Ultimately, AI and humans will differentiate themselves from each other," said Prentice.
AI is most successful in addressing problems that are reasonably well-defined and narrow in scope, whereas humans excel at defining problems that need to be solved and at solving complex problems, he added.
"They bring a wide range of knowledge and skill to bear and can work through problems in various ways. They can collaborate with one another, and when situations change significantly, humans can adjust," he said.
He said, too much AI-driven automation could leave the enterprise less flexible and less able to adjust to a changing competitive landscape.
This approach, he said, will also help reassure employees about where and how AI will be used in the organisation.
AI will eventually replace many routine functions of the IT organisation, particularly on the operations side, such as in system administration, help desk, project management and application support, he added.
Some roles will disappear, but AI will improve some skills shortages, and the IT organisation as a whole will increasingly focus on more creative work that differentiates the enterprise, he noted.