Artificial Intelligence, high-speed mobile internet, big data analytics and cloud technology are the four key technologies that will shape the world over the next four years says the top global business forum.

A new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), The Future of Jobs Report 2018, says the years between now and 2022 will be a hotbed for high-tech investment by companies across every industry.

While the report finds that the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” will create more new jobs than it destroys, artificial intelligence will have a significant impact in the next four years.

In 2018 about 29 per cent of total “task hours” were performed by machines in 12 industries studied by the WEF.

By 2022 the average is expected to shift to 42 per cent performed by machines.

The role of AI and machine learning will accelerate even faster in some areas of business.

“For example, by 2022, 62 per cent of organisation’s information and data processing and information search and transmission tasks will be performed by machines compared to 46 per cent today,” the report says.

“Even those work tasks that have thus far remained overwhelmingly human — communicating and interacting (23%); coordinating, developing, managing and advising (20%); as well as reasoning and decisionmaking (18%) — will begin to be automated (30%, 29%, and 27% respectively).”

That’s expected to present big opportunities for tech stocks — particularly ASX stocks with exposure to AI and its cousin machine learning which is based on big data analytics.

There are about 28 ASX small caps that offer exposure to AI, be it in health such as cough diagnosis app maker ResApp (ASX:RAP), WhiteHawk’s (ASX:WHK) cybersecurity platform, or Weebit Nano’s (ASX:WBT) pure-play tech product of next-generation memory chips needed to power demanding AI applications.

Here are six key predictions from the WEF report:

1. Adoption and investment in technologies like AI, virtual and augmented reality, and machine learning will be almost ubiquitous; 85 per cent of businesses say they’ll be using the latter by 2022.

2. Robotic drones and non-humanoid land robots will graduate from high-tech military applications to everyday industries. More than a third of businesses say they will invest in roboticised machinery.

3. Robots and AI will slash jobs — as many as an estimated 75 million — but these will be replaced by 133 million new roles.

4. Machines won’t stop at taking over mundane takes. They will also address complex tasks such as reasoning and decision-making, and there will be a shift in the human-machine “frontier” on existing jobs.

5. New jobs will arise in expected and unexpected areas. Rising jobs include data analysts and robotics engineers, but distinctly ‘human’ roles such as customer services workers, organisational specialists and trainers will also be in demand as companies look to provide human faces for customers.

6. Because of rapid technological changes, the skills needed to do many jobs will change quickly leaving the vast majority of the workforce in need of retraining or up-skilling. The report estimates a 42 per cent shift in the average skill set needed by 2022. Most companies expect to hire new staff with all the skills they need rather than retrain their existing staff.

For ASX tech investors these forecasts could mean opportunity for education providers specialising in professional development, network providers, cloud software makers and drone builders in the next few years.

Here are some examples:

iCollege (ASX:ICT), Academies Australasia (ASX:AKG), and Navitas (ASX:NVT) offer up-skilling education. iCollege in particular is settling into an Asia-focused strategy with partners in India and China to offer professional development, and an oil and gas further education arm in Singapore.

5G Networks (ASX:5GN) provides broadband services to businesses by establishing its own fibre and wireless infrastructure to do so, as is rival Superloop (ASX:SLC). Spirit Telecom (ASX:ST1) is taking a slightly different route by establishing a wireless line-of-sight and fibre alternative for super fast internet to multi-dwelling units.

Tapping the robotics theme, the ASX has a rising number of candidates from drone makers Aquabotix (ASX:UUV) and Department 13 (ASX:D13) to house maker Fastbricks (ASX:FBR) and “flying car” wannabe Mobilicom (ASX:MOB).

And showing just how in demand robots are, last year investors could buy into a ‘robotic surgeons’ company called Life Healthcare, which said hospitals were increasingly using robots for precision operations.

By May this year they were gone — snaffled up by Australian private equity company Pacific Equity Partners.