November 22, 2019
As a seasoned AI startup with half a decade’s experience under our belt, we’ve engaged in countless discussions about the implications of AI’s growing influence in both the global and business arenas. While AI’s impact is wide-ranging, our expertise lies primarily within the business sector, and it’s in this area that we’ll put our primary focus. It’s indisputable that we’re in an era where AI significantly shapes our societal and professional landscapes.
In light of this, we thought it timely to revisit and republish an article from 2019. Our belief remains steadfast: AI harbors the potential to drive transformative change for the better. However, we’re also mindful of the complex questions that arise as AI becomes more deeply entwined with our lives. We’re eager to explore these issues in future discussions.
Despite fears of AI causing extensive job displacement, we’re optimistic that AI will serve as a valuable tool to augment many professions, rather than eradicating them. We hope you enjoy this revisited piece, and as always, we welcome your thoughts and engagement.
There’s a lot of fear around AI’s threat to disrupt a wide swath of jobs (even life as we know it), and there seem to be a lot of good reasons why this will be the case. But there’s also no need to panic. Just as the Industrial Revolution disrupted countless jobs, a significant amount were also created.
This is already proving to be the same case with the evolution of AI.
What will AI render obsolete?
For the most part, AI removes middlemen. With the use of user-friendly and AI-powered platforms, customers can now customize anything according to their own needs and preferences, while personalization data helps marketers reach them.
Customers and businesses can now meet in the middle with better and better accuracy. Because of that, AI will make low to mid-level positions obsolete. “Any task that can be learned” is the broad category most experts agree would be completely automated in the next ten years.
Machine learning will get more sharply honed and deliver better efficiency for routine tasks in such roles as insurance underwriting, research and data entry, and most aspects of customer service.
According to Gartner, AI will eliminate 1.8 million jobs, but will create 2.3 million jobs.
A different kind of work
Certain sectors will be hit harder, sooner – if not already, like manufacturing cutting down on “head count” with the use of robotics technology – but we can expect big changes across all industries. More than eliminating jobs, AI will create jobs, and enhance and complement the jobs that will remain.
The changes can even go unnoticed, like auto-generated reports and email management, but they’re happening across industries and enabling management to “go lean” and cut labor costs. We’ve all witnessed the widespread replacement of cashiers – at supermarkets and casinos – with automated technology.
On the other hand, more and more knowledge workers, notably marketing and customer service teams, will weave AI into everyday processes for faster, personalized campaign implementation and responses.
Every revolution and innovation changed the way we do business, but business kept going. This time is no different. Some jobs would be replaced, but there will be more jobs, different jobs.
AI needs human ingenuity. Machine learning still depends on human input. There will always be exceptions to rules already established in AI, and no matter how much data they analyze these exceptions need human intervention and refining.
AI will need monitoring and training. And this is where human intelligence comes in, making sure AI doesn’t bungle up. Tasks that monitor, train, and maintain the speed and accuracy we expect from AI will become the new jobs of the new digital era.
Companies should focus on the necessary culture change and adaptability to AI-related opportunities or threats.
The opportunities? Pioneering, and gaining an edge over your competitors through early adoption. The world is always in awe of explorers. Millennials compose more than 50% of the market now, and unlike Gen Z who were born into this new technology, millennials remember dial-up, taking a number card and waiting for it to be called, and other outdated, inconvenient, expensive, and inefficient methods of getting the services or goods they want.
They appreciate convenience, cost, and time-efficiency. That’s why they love Uber and AirBnB. The mere adoption of AI and personalization to make your customer service faster and better would endear you to your more technically savvy market.
Sales is no longer transactional, but personal instead, focusing on customer relationships and experience, something that AI bots won’t be able to achieve. What companies save on labor should go into training and tools to help their teams transition from the old way to the new way of work.
The threats don’t apply much if companies and employees are willing to train and shift to different work that evolve with the help of AI, e.g., bookkeepers or legal secretaries shifting to consultancy or specialized services, using AI.
Augmented and empowered
Yes, using AI. Jobs will not survive despite AI – jobs will be empowered and augmented by AI. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts growth for many jobs AI is expected to affect: accountants, web developers, dietitians, financial specialists, among others.
These industries will benefit from the data analysis and reporting AI can deliver. AI will take over the repetitive and mind-numbing tasks, leaving the experts to focus on their clients and business growth.
Judgment and decision-making would still be on humans, but the steps and processes necessary to reach decisions will be reduced or replaced altogether with insights. The result? Friction and human error removed in the value chains. Billions recovered in hours of productivity, and trillions in generated business value.
According to Kai-Fu Lee, AI guru and author of AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, jobs that involve “creation, conceptualization, complex strategic planning and management, precise hand-eye coordination, dealing with “unknown and unstructured spaces” and feeling or interacting “with empathy and compassion” are safe from AI obsolescence.
Of course. Trial lawyers. Bartenders. Concierges. But even these jobs can get help from AI. The question isn’t whether a job is safe, but the possibilities AI can have for even these jobs. It’s fun to imagine.
Think of today’s video games. The gamemakers of the 70s-80s worked solo, easily programming static and moving pixels at home. But today’s games with their fancy graphics and audio and complicated storylines meant to make it through to hard-to-impress gamers require multiple teams, an entire village to complete a single game – and that’s not counting the support teams whose jobs stretch years beyond the release of the game.
That’s what AI can do, and what AI will require: more technology also means more humans for execution and implementation.