Robots 'are here to give us a promotion,' not take away jobs, Gartner says

  • By 2020, AI will generate 2.3 million jobs, exceeding the 1.8 million that it will remove, research firm Gartner said in a report
  • The public sector, healthcare and education are expected to benefit the most, while manufacturing and transportation may be the hit the hardest, the company said

In contrast to the often-heard doomsday commentaries that robots will replace human workers, research firm Gartner predicts that artificial intelligence may actually create more jobs than it's expected to eliminate.

By 2020, artificial intelligence (AI) will generate 2.3 million jobs, exceeding the 1.8 million that it will wipe out, the company said in a recent report. In the following five years to 2025, net new jobs created in relation to AI will reach 2 million, according to the report.

The number of jobs affected will vary from industry to industry. The public sector, healthcare and education are expected to gain the most jobs, while manufacturing and transportation may be the hit the hardest, said Gartner's research director, Manjunath Bhat.

"Robots are not here to take away our jobs, they're here to give us a promotion – I think that's the way we should start looking at AI," Bhat told CNBC on Tuesday.

Elon Musk and others disagree

Gartner's sanguine projections contrast with the warnings on the dangers of AI sounded by top technology industry voices such as Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Musk said the global race to lead the development of artificial intelligence could lead to World War III, and cautioned that humans must merge with machines in order to avert becoming irrelevant as AI becomes widespread.

Another technology luminary, Kai-Fu Lee, the founder of venture capital firm Sinovation Ventures, said robots are likely to replace 50 percent of all jobs in the next decade.

Gartner acknowledged in its report that AI will eliminate "millions of middle- and low-level positions." But it emphasized that more new jobs will be created, including highly-skilled, management positions and even entry-level and low-skilled jobs.

"IT leaders should not only focus on the projected net increase of jobs," the report said. "For the greatest value, focus on augmenting people with AI. Enrich people's jobs, reimagine old tasks and create new industries. Transform your culture to make it rapidly adaptable to AI-related opportunities or threats."