AI and the Future of Jobs

With Facebook reporting that their new robots had to be shut down because they started to talk in a new language, suspicion is on the increase that AI is taking over.

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Photos are representational.

EVEN SINCE we moved into high tech age, there has been concern for AI and the impact it’s having on the job market. There’s no doubt that computers and machines are doing a many of the jobs that we took for granted just a few decades ago.

With Facebook reporting that their new robots had to be shut down because they started to talk in a new language, suspicion is on the increase that AI is taking over.

The Rise of the Machine

Walk into any factory today and you’ll find a huge amount of automation. Highly specialised robotic devices are right now putting together cars, preparing food and assembling our household devices. Welcome to the fourth industrial age – the moment when robots came into their own.

And it’s not just mindless machines that we’re talking about here. The concept of ‘deep learning’ has developed in recent times, used to describe machines and computers that can evolve and discover new things and make decisions. Throw in the massive amount of big data that is floating around the digital planet right now and you have a situation that would be almost incomprehensible twenty or so years ago.

Google spends billions working on algorithms that delivers better search engine and now we have AI home tools such as Alexis already making our lives easier. That doesn’t even start to explore the impact of driverless cars which are primed to come on the market soon. What’s going to happen to all those taxi and delivery drivers if all you have to do is jump in a car and tell the computer where you want to go?

The Changing Job Market

The biggest area that the AI revolution is likely to impact is the low-skilled market and the jobs that machines can do easily and more efficiently. Oxford University researchers have already predicted that at least 40% of jobs will be lost to automation by the middle of the century.

But that doesn’t mean higher skilled jobs, or what we perceive as such, are going to be ‘safe’ either. According to Forbe’s recently:

“IBM and a number of startups are targeting intelligent assistants, also known as chatbots, or computer algorithms designed to simulate a human conversation, to recruit employees, answer HR questions, or personalize learning experiences.”

Start talking to an online help service today and the chances are it will be at least partly automated. AI is also beginning to transform areas such as health and diagnosis too and, in some cases, carrying out operations, albeit with the assistance of a qualified surgeon.

You could be thinking that the revolution is going to leave us humans far behind.

What You Need to Prepare for

There’s no doubt that automation tends to impact more heavily on those areas where an industry is the lifeblood of the community. It’s led to massive levels of unemployment in these locations and, with little additional investment to learn new skills, is continuing to create pockets of deprivation and a tendency to rage against the machine. That’s understandable if 50% of the working age people in your locality are suddenly forced out by a robot.

  • First, there needs to be an approach to help communities that have been the victims of automation to find new and productive areas to work.
  • Workers undoubtedly will need to be highly flexible and may have to get used to having two, three or more income strains at one time. We’re already seeing this in many areas of the world now.
  • There aren’t going to be the jobs for life that many of our parents and grandparents enjoyed. Updating skills and constant training and retraining, switching from job to job, are going to be key.
  • Workers shouldn’t therefore be afraid of part-time and freelance work. It’s something that millennials have quickly become used to but older employees are finding it difficult to cope with, particularly with the accompanying lack of job security.
  • Keeping up with the latest technology and learning how to leverage it is also going to be important.
  • Tech is not only improving, the new developments are coming along quicker with changes on a steep upward curve.

In truth, people have worried about the invasive nature of technology since the time of the Luddites and the first industrial revolution. There’s no doubt that technology will continue to replace our jobs in many respects. But there’s also no little doubt that new opportunities and careers will also be created out of it. The Business Insider recently made a very pertinent point:

“A surprising number of people hold jobs that didn’t exist at all when they were kids, and author Cathy N. Davidson predicts that 65% percent of today’s children will be in the same boat when they grow up.”

Before you think that we’ll soon be in a post-apocalyptic world where robots are in control, you should know that the future is far less easy to predict. Yes, there will be challenges to face and new work to find. But that really has never been the issue – it’s always been that way. While machines are quickly changing, the most adaptable and innovative creature on the planet is still humanity. And we will continue to work.


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