Original article was published on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
The AI Revolution Is Coming: Here’s How to Future -Proof Your Career
Robots are coming for your job. Not only yours, but another 20 million jobs around the world over the next 10 years. That’s how media outlets reported on the results of a 2019 paper released by global forecaster Oxford Economics. If you think that sounds rather dystopian, wait until your anxiety-fuelled googling brings up news headlines claiming it’s actually 800 million jobs — not a meagre 20 mill — that will be eliminated by robots by the time 2030 hits.
It’s already happening. There’s burger-flipping robot Flippy, created by Miso Robotics, who’s been working in fast-food joints around Cali since March 2018, with plans to head into 50 more locations worldwide. Even lawyers aren’t safe: Tel Aviv-based tech company LawGeex has created an artificial intelligence (AI)- powered contract reviewer, which, in a study, scored 94 per cent accuracy when reviewing nondisclosure agreements, compared with the 85 per cent by their human counterparts. The kicker? It took the real-life lawyers an average of 92 minutes to complete the task, while the time spent by the LawGeex AI was 26 seconds.
My initial reaction when I read all of this? Oh, shiiit. My favourite childhood movie — Terminator 2: Judgment Day — is so close to becoming a reality. When you add “job-stealing robots who’ll eventually turn into Terminators” to society’s current worry pile (namely, climate anxiety fuelled by the devastating bushfires across our country and Donald Trump’s military muscle-flexing in the Middle East), the future looks scary.
“People are quite frightened about robots coming to take their jobs,” agrees Aaron McEwan, VP of research and advisory at Gartner. “That fear is being fuelled by a lot of speculative articles. Nothing gets a headline like, ‘One-third of Australia’s jobs to be outsourced to robots’,” he adds, laughing. So it can’t all be bad… Right?
He continues: “Once you start to dig beneath the surface [of the headlines] and look at some longer-term trends and also historical precedents, what we tend to find is that we’ve been here before. This isn’t the first time that technology has reshaped society. It’s been happening ever since the first industrial revolution.”
In the next few years, it’s the rise of AI, robotics and automation — which McEwan defines as “the strategies, skills, tools, and techniques that organisations are using to remove the need for labour and increase the predictability and reliability of products and services while reducing the cost of delivery” — that will totally transform society. And even if, unlike me, you aren’t in a deep anxiety spiral about it all leading to Judgement Day, it’s worth finding out how it could affect you and your career of choice. That’s why we’re going straight to the experts to get the real story behind the sensational headlines, and what we can all do to prepare for the future of work.
AUTOMATION, ROBOTICS AND AI
Even if we have experienced change like this in the past, the rate at which it’s happening is unprecedented. “It’s been called the fourth industrial revolution,” says Toby Walsh, Scientia Professor of artificial intelligence at the University of NSW and a featured expert on the AI documentary Machine. “It’s hard to think of a job that won’t be touched in some way by artificial intelligence.”
Remember those 800 million gigs that will be wiped out? That’s the worst-case scenario, according to McKinsey Global Institute. Its research shows the more likely situation is fewer than five per cent of all jobs will be replaced; while for 60 per cent of occupations, 30 per cent of current tasks have the potential to be automated.
Research at Gartner similarly shows projected job losses are “overstated”. “Our prediction is that artificial intelligence and automation will be a net creator of jobs. So it’s not to say that there won’t be jobs that are displaced, but the reality is for every job that’s displaced, one or two will be created,” says McEwan. This year, Gartner research shows AI is set to become “a positive net job motivator, creating 2.3 million jobs, while only eliminating 1.8 million”.
Despite all the uncertainty, Walsh says there’s one thing we can count on: “Whatever new jobs get created, we’re almost sure [they] will require different skills than the jobs that get destroyed … [So] the real conversation we should be having is, ‘How do we reskill people?’”
THE FUTURE OF WORK
At this point, you’re probably wondering, what kind of jobs will be created? One area McEwan expects to see a big demand is in “digital dexterity”. He explains, “This is your ability to use and manipulate current and emerging technology to drive business outcomes. [An example is] a customer service rep working alongside a chat bot to deliver an outcome to a client.”
CEO of RMIT Online and speaker at StartCon’s The Future of Work conference, Helen Souness, agrees. “The really burning hot areas that we are trying to address in [RMIT Online’s] technology [courses] are, firstly, the classic picture we all have of developers, architects, practitioners of technology, but also digital transformation skills,” she says. “The World Economic Forum predicts 90 per cent of roles will require IT proficiency. Now that doesn’t mean you’re a coder, but you just need to be comfortable.”
That’s why Souness says it’s “important to keep learning and upskilling”. If short courses (like RMIT Online’s offerings in areas such as AI programming and marketing), certifications (for example, in aged care, another industry set to grow, or personal training) and post-grad courses are too much of a commitment, Souness suggests trying one of the many free MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) platforms or even learning about your area of interest on YouTube. She says, “Curiosity is wildly underrated as a way to learn.”
Another area McEwan believes will see a growth in demand is what he calls “social creative skills”. “This is the ability to use creativity and innovation as well as social skills to influence, so coaching and podcasting would be examples.”
You may have noticed there’s one thing in common with these jobs. “The skill sets emerging are the things that the robots can’t do,” McEwan says. “The robots are good at repeatable, predictable [tasks], where they’re analysing big data sets to find patterns, but their ability to package that and present it in a compelling way is still questionable.”
So, it looks like this fourth industrial revolution might not lead to Judgement Day after all. “If we channel automation right, it can remove the drudgery of work and free us up to be the creative, autonomous, purpose-led individuals that we actually are,” explains McEwan. “We’ll end up with employees who are doing much more meaningful work — that’s what I hope for.”