86% of UAE and Oman CEOs believe AI will create – not destroy – jobs

However, Softbank's Masayoshi Son said "blue-collar workers will be replaced by metal-collar workers"

Artificial intelligence will create jobs, not replace them, according to CEOs from the UAE and Oman [representational image: commsmea.com].
Artificial intelligence will create jobs, not replace them, according to CEOs from the UAE and Oman [representational image: commsmea.com].

Nine of 10 surveyed chief executive officers (CEOs) in the UAE and Oman believe that artificial intelligence (AI) will create more jobs than it eliminates – even as Softbank’s Masayoshi Son warns about the replacement of blue-collar workers with “metal-collar” staff.

These chiefs make up 86% of a pool of 50 CEOs surveyed from both countries, as part of KPMG’s 2018 CEO Outlook report, which covered 1,500 top bosses from global industries.

READ: Construction of Saudi's Qiddiya creates digital transformation jobs

According to the findings of the survey, 98% of the surveyed UAE and Oman CEOs view technological disruption as an opportunity rather than a threat, with many considering it “a personal responsibility to seize the competitive edge” offered by disruption.

Globally and in the two GCC countries, 54% of the CEOs claim to be “actively disrupting” the sectors in which they operate. However, 54% of regional CEOs say their firm is “struggling to keep pace with innovation”, and 88% of the group said they believe “lead times for transformation often seem overwhelming”. Both these figures are higher than the global average reported by KPMG’s report.

CEOs most prepared to “personally lead [a] radical operating model transformation” work in the US, France, Germany, Australia, and the UK, according to the report. They are followed by their counterparts in Asian and Middle Eastern superpowers such as India, Saudi Arabia, China, and the UAE.

Commenting in the report, Son, chairman and CEO of Japanese giant Softbank Group Corp, said: “Humans will continue to do jobs in high-touch segments such as the arts, social enterprises and entertainment, selling, and marketing, where humans pull on people’s heartstrings.

“But I believe that almost all blue-collar workers will be replaced by metal-collar workers. By that, I mean robots equipped with intelligence and super intelligence. They are no longer robots without brains, as they were in the past – they have become smart-robots.”

Son is most prominently involved in the Middle East through the $200bn (SAR750bn) Solar Power Project 2030 venture with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, led by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

Cybersecurity is also an area of focus for regional CEOs, KPMG’s report has found, with 56% of the UAE’s and Oman’s CEOs believing that “a cyberattack is now a case of ‘when’, not ‘if’”.

READ: How Saudi Aramco recovered from a cyber attack

“[Cyber risk] is a very big issue because as the technology changes, it opens up more loopholes,” Tim Murray, CEO of smelting heavyweight Aluminium Bahrain says in KPMG’s report.

“We have manufacturing systems that control things, so if they were hacked or frozen or locked-up, it could obviously have a major impact on us.”

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