There was a time, perhaps within your living memory, when it was said that if you could read and write, if you had a head for numbers and you could work hard, you could get a job and be successful in life.
Today, you would be hard pressed to repeat that assertion.
Because today, AI is here. Able to perform more and more sophisticated functions. Which means more and more of the functions human workers can perform will increasingly be performed by AI.
What does that mean? Is it Skynet Scenario?
Skynet, in case you don’t know, is the villainous AI system that’s the main antagonist (Bad Guy, in plain English) in the Terminator series of films.
In the film, Skynet has taken control of itself, wiped out most of humanity and engages in battle with the remnants of humanity while creating and controlling an army of robots all by itself.
No, we aren’t anywhere near the Skynet scenario.
However it is true that AI and robots (however simplistic) are poised to take over more and more of the functions normally carried out by humans in a variety of scenarios, ranging from the manufacturing floor to the shop floor.
Is the concern about AI jobs a Luddite concern?
This is a bit of a digression from the main topic. However, this debate should be cleared up once and for all.
Luddites, in case you haven’t heard of them, were a group of textile workers in 19th century England who destroyed textile machinery over fears that they would be replaced by the machines.
Comparison with Luddites is frequently invoked to dismiss any and all concerns of jobs disappearing due to the advent of AI.
And that’s a false comparison.
Today’s machines are a whole lot more advanced than those of the 19th century. In those days, a machine had to be run by a human worker, they had to be maintained by a human worker and they had to be created by human workers.
Today, algorithms run vast sections of the manufacturing process in many industries and a lot of maintenance operations can be performed by algorithms. Human intervention is needed at an increasingly higher level of the manufacturing process, which naturally means fewer human workers are needed.
So, it’s Doomsday as far as jobs are concerned?
Well, yes and no.
One, while the advent of AI has already happened, the day of AI taking over some of today’s most popular jobs, like that of the cashier, is still not here. It is around the corner, maybe 5 years from now, but it is definitely not here yet. So for now, such jobs are safe.
However, you will need to acquire some very particular sets of skills in order to stay relevant in the jobs market.
So, what are the skills required to remain relevant in the jobs market?
One, and this is the most obvious, coding and programming skills.
Remember I talked about algorithms operating entire machines and handling routine tasks? Well, those algorithms and those programs will still need to be written by people. Human workers will also be needed to debug programs.
So, keep an eye out for the specific kinds of coding skills that are and will be in high demand and use these next few years to train in those. You can do your research on good old Google or Bing or whichever search engine you use…and as for training, you can look to websites offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) like Coursera, edX and Udemy.
Two, jobs with an advisory role will be relevant for the foreseeable future.
For example, the role of ‘financial advisor’ will continue to be filled by human beings for years. While machine can completely prepare tax returns, they aren’t quite at the stage of offering specific financial advice tailormade to individual financial conditions yet.
Three, jobs that require creative input.
Four, teaching jobs.
As the complexity of skills grows, so will the importance of the teaching profession.
And that’s another section of the jobs market that will remain out of bounds for robots for the foreseeable future.
To sum up, while AI and robots certainly are eating into the pie of available jobs, one, we’re not quite at crisis stage yet; and two, by equipping yourself with the correct skill set, you can prepare yourself to remain relevant in the jobs market, today and also 5 years from now.