Can AI make a better future for workers and employment?

15th Dec 2017
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Since its advent, AI has been put to use to make our lives easier and smoother. With the vast amount of computational power available, AI systems can churn through data a lot faster to detect trends and patterns which might evade the human eye. At the same time, assigning AI to complete repetitive and monotonous tasks can free human operators for more “creative” pursuits.

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There is little doubt AI will radically transform employment in the future. Over the coming years, the fusion of AI into most fields will open up varied opportunities in sectors ranging from manufacturing to education. For example, if you want to become an astrophysicist, an AI software could easily generate a customized educational experience based on your interests and learning pace in a matter of minutes. We might not even need teachers anymore in a few decades, as information moves from television screens to eye lenses or even cybernetic implants.

A better future with AI

Fuelled by pop culture depictions and a worrying sense of obsolescence, many people are concerned that true Artificial Intelligence could likely become a threat. This doesn’t necessarily mean Skynet-like AI overlords, but rather very real threats to human employment and livelihoods. If AI can do everything better and more efficiently, what happens to the people it replaces? It’s a reasonable question, but there are also many who feel that AI is a boon, not a bane.

Glenn Gore, Chief Architect of Amazon Web Services, recently said in an interview with YourStory how he believes that AI will actually create new jobs instead of stealing existing ones. He is one among many who see AI as having the potential for transformational good, instead of as a threat.

Noted futurist Ray Kurzweil (Co-founder, Singularity University, and author, computer scientist, and inventor) is also quite optimistic about the future. He doesn’t believe that robots will be taking over our jobs, and sees AI as just another radically transformative technology. “Technology has always been a double-edged sword. Fire kept us warm, cooked our food, and burned down our houses. World War II – 50 million people died, and that was certainly exacerbated by the power of technology at that time.”

Ray predicts that we could soon have nanobots controlling diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative issues, which would ultimately allow humans to live longer lives. It may become incredibly lonely for us to simply interact with each other, and hence AI could even become our companion in conversations.

So what does this mean in terms of employment opportunities? Tech jobs will likely shift towards AI-based security systems, that can ensure that there are no hidden “backdoors” or hidden vulnerabilities, and system processes are completely safe. Repairmen may become AI engineers, and so on.

There is little doubt that jobs that are inherently low-skilled will be at threat from smart and more efficient AI. However, this will open up opportunities and requirements for skilled workforces and incentivise self-development and growth. Workers will be encouraged to improve their skillsets and make themselves more useful in roles that will actually need the unique human touch.

Quality over quantity?

Jobs that rely on the high quality of work – artists, comedians, artisanal products, service industries, etc. – will see a rise in productivity and workers owing to increased efficiency in AI. Now that the computer can take care of all your basic needs, you can really focus on making your work output better.

Professor Richard Susskind, the author of The Future of the Professions, is confident that we’re going to see massive churn in jobs of low-level tasks. He says, “So a lawyer today doesn’t develop systems that offer advice, but the lawyer of 2025 will. They’ll still be called lawyers, but they’ll be doing different things.”

What Prof. Susskind is saying is that the definition of work itself will change, but the end objective will remain constant in the new AI-powered human world.

Jobs of the future

Most future theorists strongly believe that the following jobs will be created in the new AI sphere. Although much of it is speculation, it’s still considered a rock-solid approach for future employability:

AI engineers: This one’s a no-brainer. We need close to 1 million AI engineers to develop AI bots and maintain them, while we only have about 3,00,000 at present. This is a big gap to fill, and the future will need people for it.

Skilled craft workers: Exquisitely designed craft products appeal to our senses and our appreciation of life. Whether making tastier cakes, prettier shoes, or sleeker furniture, the craft workers of the future will have plenty of opportunities to make our lives more enchanted while AI algorithms decipher your particular needs.

Content creators: You will have a lot of free time after AI takes care of basic needs. Content creators (film, TV, comedies, plays, video, etc.) will have more avenues to explore as everyone will be instantly connected over the internet and able to exchange ideas and view content seamlessly.

Business entrepreneurs/strategists: While most people would consider themselves entrepreneurs in some fashion, few have the stature of the C-suite. CEOs of companies, big or small, will have to adapt to new trends, but managers at all levels will be in greater demand, as people invest in more businesses than ever before.

Marketers and advertisers: No matter how rosy, someone still has to sell you the future. The future of AI rests on how the public perceives it, leading to a greater demand for marketing and advertising services. AI will also likely become a new platform on which brands will sell their ad inventory.

Data researchers: Because research is an integral part innovation and technology development, data analysts will be replaced by data researchers. Those doing novel research and publishing papers that prove something unique and different will find getting funding and job security to be relatively easy.

Of course, there is always the possibility that someday AI will become truly self-aware and intelligent and make all human endeavours obsolete. However, that dystopian future is still far far away, and in the meantime, there is plenty for humans to do in conjunction with AI.

So what happens now?

For now, it is important to wait, watch, and prepare. These are just some of the jobs that will likely be created in the near future. As the future unfolds for AI, there are bound to be bumps and curves along the way. However, there is no need for a gloom-and-doom approach. If properly harnessed and understood, Artificial Intelligence could likely create a golden age of humanity, with more productivity and creativity than ever before, rather than the dystopia so many fear.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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