It is interesting to see that when the public health experts, the scientific community and the policy-makers are busy in averting a major public health crisis all around the world, a selected few hopefuls, especially with some idle times on hand, are busy in envisaging - a post-Covid-19 world - according to their chosen area of concern, or expertise.
While some see the current unprecedented level of lockdown and the new emerging norm of social distancing as the end of unfettered globalisation, the demise of individualistic capitalism and the dawn of an idealistic version of socialism, some, on the other hand, are finding solace in nature's ability of auto-correcting the anomalies accumulated by mankind's march towards technological advancement and energy consumption, resulting in an imminent climate change.
In that regard, a relevant and possibly a much more interesting area of concern will be the interface between the so-called "low-skilled" workforce and artificial intelligence in the post-Covid-19 world.
How will the much-demonised interface between artificial intelligence and the so-called low skilled workers now pan out in the future after the recent Covid-19 global pandemic has affirmed the criticality and efficacy of the same workforce, whose future existence has been the biggest talking point for many advanced major economies?
Will, now there be more humane, reasonable, pan out of AI in our workplace that partners with the human workforce rather than replaces them altogether, is the new question that policy-makers, businesses and marketplace have to delve upon in the new post-Covid-19 world, as and when it returns to some semblance of normality.
Artificial Intelligence, for long, has been portrayed negatively in the media-narrative, for posing a threat to the future of the global landscape of work, threatening that most ordinary and mundane jobs would be replaced by automation and machines.
Despite this much-demonised narrative in the public narrative, AI is also equally contributing to and in fact leading in many areas in the collective fight against the Covid-19 global pandemic, especially in the realm of incorporating experimental technologies within medical care and health systems to relieve an unprecedented strain on their resources.
Hospitals all around the world are using it to help screen and triage patients and identify those most likely to develop severe symptoms, provide being the first line of defence against the global pandemic by taking over some of the care-duties for the people infected with the virus along with scanning faces to check temperatures and harnessing fitness tracker data, to zero in on individual cases and potential clusters.
Most importantly, the incorporation of AI in the public health and medical care is not limited to the most advanced economies of the global west, but several emerging economies such as India, are incorporating AI in their seemingly under-resourced public health system in the frontline health care of the suspected coronavirus infected people, along with the usual tracking the movement of people with the disease and also can do geofencing around him or her.
In the realm of early warning against epidemics, AI can play even more critical roles as previously demonstrated in the case of the Canadian-based AI model, BlueDot, which has already become legendary.
It showed how a relatively low-cost AI tool (BlueDot was funded by a startup investment of around US$ 9 million) could out-predict humans in spotting infectious disease outbreaks. Many observers argue that BlueDot predicted the outbreak of the infection at the end of 2019, issuing a warning to its clients on December 31, 2019, before the World Health Organization did on January 9 2020.
However, much like in publicity of every other case of AI tools at workplaces that potentially undermines the input of the human value, the case of AI tool BlueDot's publicity also contains some exaggeration and some undervaluation of the role of human scientists.
It is this exaggeration around artificial intelligence that needs to be carefully weeded out in the post-Covid-19 world to remove the undermining of the human workforce.
In fact, the current global response of covid-19 pandemic had changed the script altogether, by putting the low-skilled workers on the frontline as the only, and the most desirable and jobs that are required to sustain the basic minimal economic activities of almost all countries.
Today, with only one-third of the businesses and work, deemed as "essential services," of the entire New Zealand economy, the so-called "low-skilled" workforce is the only one with some kind of guaranteed work right now, when the rest of others have been either rendered redundant or compelled to work remotely with severely reduced productivity, in order to prevent a major public health crisis.
The imageries of our so-called low-skilled frontline workers, including ethnic migrant temporary workers in supermarkets, gas stations, aged care facilities, food and goods distribution networks have won accolades from one and all for their commitment to keeping our basic economic activities functional during the complete lockdown period.
Rarely would have anyone imagined such a scenario, where the so-called low skilled workforce would have returned back with such a swag, when everyone was busy in contemplating their future, in the future high productive high wage economies, envisaging to thrive only on the high-skilled workforce.
Although many would argue that any of this favourable imageries might not be singularly capable in slowing down the march of AI at our workplaces, there would not be any denial of the fact that despite all manifested advancements in AI, it will not be easy for the complete redundancy of the human workforce.
The low-skilled workforce, including the temporary migrant workforce, has made a strong case for its relevance in the post-Covid-19 world.