Despite the rhetoric surrounding the immigration debate and protectionism, we are more fearful of losing employment to new technology than to other, more competitive, workers. Considering the spectrum of demographics surveyed, it should be noted that people are universally fearful of technology disrupting their professions and employment in the near future. We have already seen this effect take place across the centuries from the beginning of the printing press to the birth of the first industrial computing systems. As our technology grows ever-more advanced and capable of handling tasks traditionally done by humans, we should take caution in committing ourselves to professions that may become outdated in our lifetimes, effectively rendering the decades of experience we will have accrued up to that point obsolete. But how will we know what kinds of professions will last through the ages? Here are my guidelines:
Professions that emphasize a human touch
Though algorithms and machine learning are advancing at an increasing rate, a common problem seems to be the lack of adaptability of artificial intelligence in situations that require emotional interpretation and an understanding of the nuances of human psychology. Although robots and AI function in an incredibly efficient manner, they are only able to interpret the black and white, that is, separate facts using pure logic. As human beings, we are irrational and emotional entities that don’t always make the decisions that we should. In order to “humanize”, AI will need to develop behavior that allows them to operate outside their programmed constraints, effectively breaking the barrier between human and machine. Such developments most likely won’t be happening at scale for a very long time, allowing people to still retain our relevance in an increasingly machine-dominated world.
Servicing and managing AI
Until AI have the capability of developing and policing themselves, the burden of machine management will still fall to human beings. Although this would require extensive training and skills reorientation, positions that require overseeing machine processes will have a fair degree of longevity in the future. AI cannot always be trusted to be self-checking and self-correcting since programming errors and malfunctions can still occur in the most stringent of policing software. In addition, until AI can become aware of any flaws in their own programming, humans will always need to periodically intervene to ensure smooth operating conditions.
Bridging the gap between AI and human relations
As a stopgap employment opportunity, there will most likely be positions in the future that require humans to guide AI through the first stages of their adaptation to formerly human-oriented jobs. In this profession, skills such as a thorough understanding of AI as well as human behavior will be necessary in order to ensure a smooth transition to an AI-dominated workplace. The initial stages of adoption will most likely encounter resistance from a wide range of parties as high as upper management to new associates. Coworkers will most likely express concern that their position will be next in line to be assigned to automation. It will be in this dynamic environment that human-AI relations experts will be expected to operate in order to prevent full-scale anarchy and mass-resignations from occurring. While it will be expected that machines will eventually shoulder most of the burden in the workplace, we cannot expect entire departments to be mothballed overnight. For this reason, AI-human relations experts will be crucial to guarantee the best possible handoff.
Though these points certainly don’t cover all the possibilities of our developing future, the general idea is to find new niches and gaps created by the proliferation of artificial intelligence in the workplace. The best and most plentiful opportunities will be centered around advancing AI adoption or transitioning old infrastructure to work with new entities. Though this future will not be one in which people are completely obsolete, it certainly won’t look the same as it does now, with people neatly lined in cubicles entering inputs at machine terminals. In an automated world where the terminals can enter their own inputs, we must find our new positions that allows us to still remain useful.