Can Jobs Be AI-proofed and How?
The future of work
Ever since AI started penetrating virtually all fields and professions, job loss fears due to its extensive adoption, spread wide and far. In a natural progression of sorts, some of the first sectors to embrace machine intelligence were industrial manufacturing, fulfilment and logistics. The notion that blue-collar workers will be almost entirely displaced by machines prevails, further fueling fears of growing income inequality. As AI continues to advance, it is becoming evident that it could replace office, or white-collar workers, too. Finally, we are starting to see that AI will also affect job realities for certain knowledge workers – a class of staff previously thought untouchable.
How much of these predictions are true? Who should really heed AI? And how can workers prepare for the proliferation of AI?
How advanced is AI today, really?
While AI has made notable advances in the past decade, it is not yet at the point where humans can fully rely on it. For example, in 2020, AI can translate from different languages, recognize voice commands, speak, and navigate based on spatial directions. Machine intelligence is also capable of decent image and facial recognition, though, it isn’t 100% accurate at that. Self-driving cars, which are also based on AI, are still not completely safe and continue to cause some accidents.
In general, AI can successfully follow pre-defined rules, recognize patterns and trends in large volumes of unstructured data, compute, analyze, categorize, visualize, and summarize data, make predictions, verify identities, manage documentation,… but it certainly can‘t do everything… just yet.
Of course, AI is as good as the instructions it receives, so programmers are largely responsible for advancing it further to serve the needs of businesses and non-profits. Most likely, AI will not replace blue-collar or white-collar work entirely, though, it will impact it as job tasks and responsibilities will shift from the automatable to the irreplaceable.
Impact of Artificial Intelligence on jobs
Artificial Intelligence could end up affecting the workforce much more than initially expected. Office jobs like market research, telemarketing, data analysis, bookkeeping, computer support, post office administration, etc. are especially vulnerable to displacement due to their relative simplicity and the repetitiveness of daily tasks.
Some of the work of scientists, engineers and academic researchers could one day also be outsourced to machines, capable of faster, more accurate and multi-dimensional calculations, complex analyses, testing of hypotheses, and unexpected pattern discovery. This is certainly an area that humans are largely lacking in due to the mere limitations of the human brain. We cannot and should not try to compete with machines on those tasks – rather, it’s best we embrace the help and use it to further scientific research and progress.
Fortunately, most jobs of the future will also require a significant ‘human element’ to them. This requirement will become increasingly more important as industries grow more reliant on AI. Communication, collaboration, exchanging ideas based on experience or sometimes even just a ‘gut feeling,’ the management of data and resources, are all jobs best performed by humans, and they will be difficult and ineffective to outsource to AI.
Knowledge workers and AI
The possibility of losing a job to AI should not be exaggerated but also not completely discounted. White-collar and knowledge workers, as well as blue-collar workers need to be aware of this possibility and take steps to prepare for the future. What can humans do to avoid falling prey to almighty AI? Cross-functional training, knowledge that spans across disciplines and fields, and continued learning are all foolproof ways to stay ahead of AI progression.
Job mobility done right
Whereas time-consuming, monotonous tasks like data crunching, market research, and statistical analysis can be easily automated, decision-making on a larger scale is still best done by humans with loads of experience and big-picture skills. There will be certain overlap between AI functionality and actual job descriptions – those are the skills that we can look at abandoning. However, AI can’t do everything, and the gaps will still need to be filled by full-blooded workers – those are the areas of expertise that we need to focus on developing in the next decades.
Here are some of the qualities, skills, experience and expertise that AI will have a hard time replacing and that workers should acquire or develop to continue participating in the job market:
Soft skills that are AI-proof:
- Empathy, compassion, charitability, emotional support
- EQ (emotional intelligence), ethics and morals
- Judgment and responsibility
- Free will
- Creativity and innovation
- Communication, collaboration, negotiation, teamwork
Functional skills that are AI-proof:
- Foresight, planning, critical thinking
- Strategic thinking, prioritization, big-picture decision-making
- Leadership, management and motivation of people
- Physical skills: athleticism, endurance, speed
- Teaching skills: adjusting one’s style to the changing and specific needs of students
AI is still most effective when combined with human oversight and the skills listed above. While its scope has wide-reaching implications, we must stay realistic about what it can and cannot do, while staying mindful of the job responsibilities that will be outsourced to machines in the foreseeable future.
Are you looking to develop your own AI-friendly platform that your human workers can interact with and benefit from? Contact us for a discussion on how best to achieve this.