Our Jobs are Going Digital

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tasks traditionally done by humans, we should take caution in committing ourselves to professions that may become outdated in our lifetimes, effectively rendering the decades of experience we will have accrued up to that point obsolete.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

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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

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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

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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.

7 comments

  1. I think you are right that professions or jobs that emphasize human touch are never going to go away. It gives me some hope that maybe AI will allow us to shift our focus more to human touch and connection, but I am not sure that is the trend we are following. I think you also are right that there will be a lot of jobs to help the transition to AI. During this time, we will have to be very explicit with what these jobs will look like in the future. I hope the transition to AI will be able to advance jobs and open people up to focus more on strategy or connection, rather than take jobs away or make them obsolete.

  2. Nice article! You definitely touch on a lot of points that Ive been thinking about myself. What I fear the most is the social/economic tensions that arise because of AI. I can definitely see a world where politicians who know very little about AI created legislation that isn’t helpful and people who are angry that they don’t have jobs available to them.

    Furthermore, I hope we as a society find ways to start training people to be able to participate in the tech economy. I often times hear from people in Cybsecurity, Software Engineering, and other fields is that there are more positions than people to fill them. As this technological trend keeps advancing, I hope we are enabling people to work in areas where they are needed.

  3. Technological disruption has certainly effected the labor market. I think people are trying to figure out if the net effect will be positive. Even the fields that require a lot of human intervention or analysis are being disrupted. Telemedicine is a great example of changing what was a considered unimaginable. What has been interesting about the platform companies is it has provided flexibility to workers who want to pick up extra income. I am hopeful that the gap between education and workforce becomes narrower and we prepare our young people to work in “hot sectors”. I am not convinced we are there yet. While we often hire for character we don’t always have the infrastructure in place to train for success.

  4. Hey Mike, good points. I am all for AI to help people move from the more mundane jobs so they can think forcing bigger. That is the coach in me, but also the copywriter and brand message guy too. People will always need to connect and learn something new. Also, not many people stay in jobs like they used too. My sister works in digital and seems to be constantly moving jobs.

  5. That is an interesting and relevant topic. I agree with you that AI and human relations will be a necessary profession in the future. Companies will definitely need to have someone direct and organise such a big transition. I also think that not many people currently have these skills and that a lot of these AI-HR skills we will just have to learn with experience and practice. I also wonder if and how governments will respond to the trend of AI substituting human jobs. In the past jobs have become obsolete, however, I think AI can bring substitution on a scale we have not seen before. As Mark mentioned there for sure will be unrest among workers who are scared to lose their jobs. I wonder if countries will start programs to help people gain skills in AI related fields to help smooth the transition.

  6. Nice post. We’ll be dealing with this topic later in the semester, so I’ll hold off now. They are fascinating to talk about, though, and my position is that people are best suited to identify the human needs that new technology creates.

  7. Theres a really great book called The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis that discusses the nuances of human psychology and implications in the world with the growth of technology. Its essentially been proven that AI and technology are “smarter” than humans, but I do agree that there are jobs that require a human touch for people to trust them. Really makes me think of the show West World and the development of emotionally equipped machines. Well see if that will be more likely in the future.

    The other great point you brought up was the development and management of AI. So many jobs in technology are open (literally hundreds of thousands) and not enough people are trained in the skills needed to do them. Hopefully more people will work to getting skills in tech, just as robots are taking our jobs, making the loss of jobs just a little bit smaller. Wishful thinking maybe!

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