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The Future of Jobs: Understanding the Impact of Robots and AI in the Workplace

“Artificial intelligence is poised to eliminate millions of current jobs — and create millions of new ones.”

The impact of robots and AI on jobs has a dual nature – while some jobs may be lost, new ones will also emerge. Since 2000, 1.7 million manufacturing jobs have been replaced by automation. However, by 2025, AI is expected to create 97 million new job opportunities.

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The impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on jobs is undeniable. While some roles in various industries, including healthcare, agriculture, and industrial sectors, may be affected by AI, it is predicted that demand for workers in robotics and software engineering will increase. Despite concerns of job loss due to AI, Sean Chou, former CEO of AI startup Catalytic, shares a different perspective, calling robots “stupid” and highlighting their failures on platforms like YouTube. However, the rise of AI may not be as rapid as some media reports suggest, providing some relief to those worried about job displacement.

What types of Jobs will AI impact?

Many experts agree that several professions will be fully automated within the next five to ten years. The Forbes Technology Council, consisting of senior-level tech executives, has identified 15 such jobs, including insurance underwriting, warehouse and manufacturing jobs, customer service, research and data entry, long haul trucking, and a category encompassing “Any Tasks That Can Be Learned,” which is somewhat unsettling.

Kai-Fu Lee, the CEO of Sinovation Ventures and an expert in AI, predicted in a 2018 essay that half of all jobs will be automated by AI within the next 15 years. According to Lee, professionals in fields such as accounting, factory work, truck driving, paralegal work, and radiology will face a level of disruption comparable to that experienced by farmers during the Industrial Revolution.

This prediction is supported by several studies, including those conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute, Oxford University, and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. These studies suggest that both specialized and blue-collar workers will be affected by the ongoing implementation of AI.

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The development of generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Bard has raised concerns about whether AI will replace jobs that involve writing. While it’s unlikely that AI will ever match the authentic creativity of humans, it is already being used to generate writing ideas and assist with repetitive content creation. AI writing tools or chatbots can already handle tasks such as writing formulaic emails, creating social media posts, and responding to customer service requests. In some cases, AI is even used to create a first draft that is later edited by a human.

AI has already produced artwork worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and AI art generators like Midjourney and Dall-E are gaining popularity. Some artists and designers view AI-generated art as a tool, while others see it as a threat. As these tools become more advanced and capable of following specific design prompts, graphic design and commercial art fields may be impacted, although many believe that AI will never achieve the same level of celebrity as some human artists.

AI is expected to have a significant impact on the future of work, but there are various theories on how that impact will play out. However, it is worth noting that many of these theories offer a positive outlook rather than a pessimistic one.

Ai may not be able to take over these industries

While it’s true that AI will undoubtedly have an impact on the future of work, there are still many jobs that cannot be replaced by machines. These include creative and empathic fields, as well as complex political and strategic roles.

For example, AI will never be able to replicate the work of teachers, writers and editors, lawyers, social workers, medical professionals, therapists, and management professionals. These jobs require a level of social intelligence and empathy that machines simply cannot replicate.

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Even in fields where AI is advancing, such as writing and AI training engineering, human workers will still be necessary. While AI content generators can be helpful, they still have limitations when it comes to accuracy and misinformation. Similarly, while AI can assist educators in understanding students’ progress and temperament, teachers will always be better equipped to provide mentorship and dive into their students’ special interests.

According to AI expert Kai-Fu Lee, certain jobs are safe from being taken over by AI due to its limitations. Specifically, AI struggles with complex strategic planning, tasks requiring precise hand-eye coordination, dealing with unknown and unstructured spaces, and using empathy. Additionally, as AI becomes more prevalent, there will be a greater demand for human workers to facilitate technology adoption and ensure it reduces workloads rather than increases them. As technology becomes more encompassing, the involvement of human workers increases, rather than decreases.

For instance, the production of video games has transformed from a solo endeavor into a large-scale undertaking, involving multiple talents and a significant budget. Despite the potential of AI to aid many industries, human workers in fields that require a personal touch, such as contractors, plumbers, and electricians, will continue to be in demand. In conclusion, AI has its limitations, and human-to-human interaction will remain a crucial component of the workplace.

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We may need AI in the workplace

One of the major advantages of AI, according to experts, is its potential to relieve humans from performing monotonous and repetitive tasks that are often part of their work responsibilities. This can free up their time and energy to focus on more complex and fulfilling projects or even take a well-deserved break.

While some may worry that technology is replacing human workers or rendering certain tasks obsolete, Chou explains that such concerns are not always valid. Instead, the work and output that would have been dedicated to those tasks can be redirected towards more productive endeavors. In other words, AI can help optimize work and increase productivity, which can ultimately benefit both employers and employees.

There are those who believe that increased productivity and efficiency brought about by AI could potentially lead to a shorter work week, which may sound like a good idea, but it raises questions about how this would affect pay and benefits, as well as who would benefit the most from this change. These are unanswered questions that need to be addressed.

According to Justin Adams, former CEO at Digitize.AI and vice president at its parent company Waystar, technology has thus far created more work because it adds another thing to deal with. However, he believes that there is a tipping point where certain AI technology could actually reverse this trend.

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How will AI create new Jobs?

Currently, there are countless individuals worldwide who are involved in the development of AI. According to a New York Times article, “A.I. researchers hope they can build systems that can learn from smaller amounts of data. But for the foreseeable future, human labor is essential.”

Chou agrees that human workers are necessary. “The number of people needed to deliver better and better technology is growing massively,” Chou said. “So we are moving from worrying about the impact of high technology to actually helping to create the technology. With AI, there is a constant need for training, data, maintenance, and managing all the exceptions that arise. How do we monitor AI? How do we train it? How do we make sure that AI is not running amok? These will all become new jobs.”

Gigaom CEO Byron Reese also shares a similar perspective on how AI will impact human labor, albeit in a more hyperbolic manner. In an essay, Reese claimed that AI would be “the greatest job engine the world has ever seen.”

Reese notes that “the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] forecasts faster-than-average job growth in many occupations that AI is expected to impact: accountants, forensic scientists, geological technicians, technical writers, MRI operators, dietitians, financial specialists, web developers, loan officers, medical secretaries, and customer service representatives, to name a very few. These fields will not experience job growth in spite of AI, but through it.”

Chris Nicholson, CEO of the San Francisco-based machine learning company Skymind.AI, shares a similar view that is rooted in even more distant history. “Everyone uses this analogy, but when the Industrial Revolution arrived, a certain type of job vanished,” Nicholson said. “But many jobs, and many new jobs, were created. So when you consider, for example, England before and after the Industrial Revolution, it wasn’t a poorer place with less work. There was a lot more work, but it was a different type of work.”

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During his 2017 Ted Talk, futurist Martin Ford referred to the “Triple Revolution report,” which was compiled by a group of intellectuals and presented to President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. According to Ford, the report claimed that industrial automation would result in millions of job losses, leading to economic and social upheaval in the United States. However, Ford pointed out that this dire prediction never materialized, and this alarm has been raised repeatedly without actual consequence. As a result, this has led to conventional thinking that technology has the potential to devastate entire industries and eliminate whole occupations. Despite this, Ford believes that progress will lead to entirely new industries with job opportunities that we cannot even imagine today.

It is unclear whether the introduction of as-yet-undetermined AI-driven products and services will incite a similar backlash, but one thing is certain: humans will continue to be just as necessary as they have always been, but in different ways and often in similar ways.

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