Reject it or embrace it. Either way, artificial intelligence is here to stay.
Nobody can predict the future with absolute precision.
But when it comes to the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on people’s careers, the recent past provides some intriguing clues.
Rhonda Scharf’s book Alexa Is Stealing Your Job: The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Your Future offers some insights and predictions that are well worth our consideration.
In the first two parts of my conversation with Rhonda (see “What Role Will [Doe]) Artificial Intelligence Play In Your Life?” and “Artificial Intelligence, Privacy, And The Choices You Must Make”) we discussed the growth of AI in recent years and talked about the privacy concerns of many AI users.
In this final part, we look at how AI is affecting—and will continue to affect—people’s career opportunities.
Spoiler alert: there’s some good news here.
Rodger Dean Duncan: You quote one researcher who says “robots are not here to take away our jobs, they’re here to give us a promotion.” What does that mean?
Rhonda Scharf: Much like the computer revolution, we need jobs to maintain the systems that have been created. This creates new, desirable jobs where humans work alongside technology. These new jobs are called the trainers, explainers, and sustainers.
Trainers will teach a machine what it needs to do. For instance, we need to teach a machine that when I yell at it (loud voice), I may be frustrated. It needs to be taught that when I ask it to call Robert, who Robert is and what phone number should be used. Once the machine has a basic understanding, it continues to self-learn, but it needs the basics taught to it (like children do.)
Explainers are human experts who explain computer behavior to others. They would explain, for example, why a self-driving car performed in a certain way. Or why AI sold shares in a stock at a certain point of the day. The same way lawyers can explain why someone acted in self-defense, when initially his or her actions seemed inappropriate, we need explainers to tell us why a machine did what it did.
Sustainers ensure that our systems are functioning correctly, safely, and responsibly. In the future, they’ll ensure that AI systems uphold ethical standards and that industrial robots don’t harm humans—because robots don’t understand that we’re fragile, unlike machinery.
There are going to be many jobs that AI can’t replace. We need to think, evolve, interpret, and relate. As smart as a chatbot can be, it will never have the same qualities as my best friend. We will need people for the intangible side of relationships.
Duncan: What should people look for to maximize their careers through the use of AI?
Scharf: According to the World Economic Forum, the top 10 in-demand skills for 2020 include complex problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, emotional intelligence, judgment and decision-making, and cognitive flexibility. These are the skills that will provide value to your organization. By demonstrating all of these skills, you will be positioning yourself as a valuable resource. We’ll have AI to handle basic tasks and administrative work. People need complex thinking to propel organizations forward.
Duncan: Bonus: What question do you wish I had asked, and how would you respond?
If you don’t want to be left behind, you’d better get educated on AI.
Scharf: I wished you had asked how I felt about artificial intelligence. If I was afraid for my future, for the future of my children, and my children’s children?
The answer is no. I don’t think that AI is all the doom and gloom that has been publicized. I also don’t believe we’re about to lead a life of leisure and have the world operate on its own either.
As history has shown us, these types of life-altering changes happen periodically. This is the next one. I believe the way we work is about to change, the same way it changed during the Industrial Revolution, the same way it evolved in response to automation. The way we live is about to change. (Think pasteurization and food storage.) Those who adapt will have a better life for it, and those who refuse to adapt will suffer.
I’m confident that I will still be employed for as long as I want to be. My children have only known a life with computers and are open to change, and my future grandchildren will only know a life with AI.
I’m excited about our future. I’m excited about what AI can bring to my life. I embrace Alexa and all her friends and welcome them into my home.