Granted, there is a grain of truth to these widespread media speculations; it is likely that, in the coming 12 months and beyond, AI will be used to automate a host of different jobs that are otherwise too repetitive, costly, or time consuming to be left to humans. A 2018 report from the World Economic Forum suggests that 75 million jobs may be displaced globally by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines in the next five years.
However, this won’t just leave an empty vacuum; the report also suggests that 133 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to this division. This means that this movement could create 58 million new jobs in just half a decade.
The overarching point is that, rather than worrying about whether AI will render humans redundant in a professional capacity, we should instead be focusing on how it might reshape the job market – and how we can adapt to reap the rewards.
Will the job market change?
Looking to the coming months and years, this is a certainty. But fear not: rather than simply displacing jobs, AI will be used to enhance human performance and generate value for businesses across various sectors.
In the near future, we will likely see humans liberated from dull administrative tasks. Rather than squandering precious time and resource on repetitive and mundane jobs – like data processing and management – these responsibilities can be left to machines. Human workers will then be free to divert their attention to more complex problems and creativity-intensive tasks; responsibilities that are sure to boost personal fulfilment and job satisfaction.
This all comes down to the way AI functions. AI toolsets can scan vast amounts of data (at an infinitely faster rate than its human counterparts), and using intelligent algorithms, analyse the data to extract powerful insights – making it an important asset to a whole range of industries.
As a case in point, let’s consider how companies are utilising digital assistants, in the form of chatbots, to relieve workers of administrative pressures. Indeed, answering standard questions from clients and consumers, day in-day out, is a massive drain on company resources that would be better off diverted elsewhere.
That’s why companies are increasingly relying on AI to handle this responsibility. Using the banks of information that the intelligent machines have access to, these chatbots can answer incoming questions and queries. Should it struggle to provide an adequate response, however, the chatbot can direct people to the relevant professional. What’s more, with machine learning (ML) capabilities, these tools are constantly learning and improving their performance.
This is just one example of the value that AI can bring to a business, and the power of collaboration between humans and machines. In order to create a symbiotic partnership like this, however, professionals must evolve their skill sets and give careful thought to how they can work in partnership with intelligent machines.
How will the workforce embrace AI?
We are likely to see AI make some jobs obsolete in the coming months and years, whilst fundamentally changing the nature of others. However, this opens up a host of new opportunities for people to upskill and explore other disciplines.
The coming of AI will favour those with digital skills; indeed, the demand for data literacy will certainly be on the rise. Data Analysts and Scientists, Software and Applications Developers, and Ecommerce and Social Media Specialists are just some examples of new job disciplines that will be coming to the forefront in the near future, according to the aforementioned World Economic Forum report.
This will also be met with growing demand for “soft skills” such as leadership, communication, and creativity. Indeed, not everyone is destined to become a programmer or engineer.
The same report suggests that we will see more opportunities emerging in fields that require more distinctively ‘human’ skills. In coming years, there will be a huge demand for positions such as Customer Service Workers, Human Resources Specialists, and Innovation Managers. This should bring home the point that – no matter how far AI advances in the near future, humans have certain characteristics that machines simply cannot replace.
I envision a strong partnership between humans and machines in 2020 and beyond; it is certainly an exciting time for AI, with plenty of developments on the horizon. However, unlocking AI’s power rests on collaboration – and this means we must focus on building awareness of how professionals and businesses can utilise the technology to their best advantage.
Nikolas Kairinos is the chief executive officer and founder of Fountech.ai, a company specialising in the development and delivery of artificial intelligence solutions for businesses and organisations.