A.I. in Numbers
The term ‘artificial intelligence’ itself dates back to 1956, when a math professor from Dartmouth College named John McCarthy proposed the idea that “every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.” Ever since, the concept of a self-learning computer has taken off into wild fits of the imagination.
A few start-ups in the 80s tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to give robots a bigger presence in our reality. But not until late have computer chips gotten so good at processing data that we can get a glimpse at the true potential for A.I. With huge breakthroughs from Google, chipmakers like Nvidia, and Apple’ Siri, we are starting to see how A.I. effects everyday life.
But there is a bit of a ‘the good, bad, and the ugly’ factor when it comes to discussing how artificial intelligence will impact the job market.
According to a 2016 report from the World Economic Forum, an estimated 5.1 million jobs will be lost due to an ever-evolving marketplace by 2020 (and 7.1 million will be lost overall). Two-thirds of those jobs will be white collar office jobs, like office and administrative roles. Other labor markets facing increased job losses include manufacturing, construction, arts and media, legal, and installation/maintenance.
What’s worse is most people don’t accept the change that is already happening. As Pew Research Center reports, about 65% of Americans believe robots will eventually be able to perform the same work as humans over the next half-century, but 80% don’t think this will possibly affect their job in anyway. The truth is, however, if they belong to any of the job categories above, their job may be at risk.
A company called Blue Prism has already developed a type of “software robot” which can perform data entry tasks, making those parts of clerical/admin roles fully redundant.
Another company called Diebold is working on a type of smart ATM that can open accounts and process loans, effectively doing the job of a bank teller without needing a lunch break or paid vacation time.
This is what the robot apocalypse actually looks like in the first half of the 21st century: less rubble and skulls, more rampant job insecurity. Which is still pretty bleak. But fear not, there is a silver lining.
There will be jobs, lots of them, with some more needed than ever. In fact, an estimated 2 million jobs are expected to be created in the areas of computer science and architecture/engineering.
Amongst the types of jobs most needed are: data analysts, who can interpret data and glean insight from all the market flux; specialized sales representatives, to help explain new technology to unfamiliar or less technically-oriented clients and consumers. Also greatly needed are people in leadership roles, like senior managers, who can help navigate companies through massive industry changes and economic uncertainty.
Coming to Terms with A.I.
For the job markets that aren’t experiencing positive growth, it does get better. There are still numerous provisions employees and job candidates can undertake to stay operational in the new age— from enrolling in online or night coding/programming classes offered by your local community college, attending company-sponsored training seminars, to redirecting your career path in a way that better serves your special talents.
Adapting to A.I. doesn’t mean that you have to start readying your brainstem for cyborg assimilation. (Not yet anyway...) The solution is arguably much more painless than that.
In a recent TED Talk titled “The ‘Golden Era’ of Recruitment,” recruiting industry leader Greg Savage discussed the implications of A.I. in the recruiting world. In it, Savage basically says the staffing companies that don’t survive the new era will ultimately fail because they use technology wrong: they use it to make their job easier, but in the process, lose their most vital skill—their people skills.
Conversely, Savage says, “We should embrace [new technology] and allow it to suck up all the drudgery and hack-work, so we can get better at the things that only human beings can do: which is the selling skills, the influencing skills, the persuading, the advising, the consulting, the building of reputation and brand.”
We are certainly living in a big bang of rapid innovation right now, and we will only continue to see more incredible achievements as time goes on. But as fantastical tropes from science-fiction start becoming our daily reality— smartwatches and voice recognition technology already fully ubiquitous at this point—if one thing’s certain, it’s that we needn’t lose our humanity in the process.