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The Fast Company Executive Board is a private, fee-based network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.

The future of jobs in the era of AI

The future of humanity is and will always be human.

The future of jobs in the era of AI
[peshkov / Adobe Stock]

Many people today are stressed over what AI means for their future employment, particularly those who have lived in their comfort zone for many years performing the same old tasks at work. For people who can embrace the unpredictable nature of life and thus recognize the continual requirement for flexibility in thought and action, as well as a desire to learn new things (skills, competencies, and knowledge) in new areas, AI at work is something to be excited about. This is particularly true if you’re able to think about and analyze what’s going on around you since it will help you spot possible opportunities to take advantage of your talents and determine what new skills and knowledge are required.

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This demand for flexibility and adaptability is set to increase as workforce automation grows, according to the latest research from Gartner. People need to develop certain skill sets that can’t be performed well by AI, at least with current technology.

These skillsets include creativity, social and emotional intelligence, sensing, computational thinking, and deconstruction. These categories are supposed to help build an understanding of the human capabilities that are not as easily replicated by machines (yet).

Even if AI develops these capacities, humans should still be able to distinguish themselves from machines by being able to modify the application of these new talents/knowledge with the necessary interpersonal/soft skills for genuine job success. This brings about the following question: What responsibilities, duties, and activities can be automated to make things go more smoothly?

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AI is expected to help humans in the future, not replace them. People will develop their capabilities and talents much more by applying these skills to new technologies and developments. This may lead us into a digital economy where people create things rather than produce them since AI can create multiple models in just minutes. Computational thinking and deconstruction are definitely skills many people don’t currently possess because they don’t need them to perform their jobs. This can be a problem when AI starts to progress and “compete” with humans for jobs.

Duties, responsibilities, and activities can be automated, but this depends on what industry you work in. For example, drivers could be replaced by self-driving cars, which are becoming more popular, but it is less likely for AI to replace preschool teachers. That is because teaching requires creativity and social and emotional intelligence skills that machines can’t yet perform.

The future of humanity is and will always be human. The question should be, “How can AI coexist with a human future?” Not, “How will people interact with AI in the future?” How can we meld the distinct abilities of AI systems and people to discover a human “specialty?” The answer to these questions is multifaceted:

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HUMANS SHOULD EMBRACE COMPUTING

Humans should embrace computing and AI as part of their future while fighting to keep what makes them unique, such as creativity and social intelligence. Furthermore, humans need to recognize how they can use their unique skills to improve AI systems rather than feeling threatened by them.

AI CAN BE AN ENABLER AND A MOTIVATOR

AI can be the language that connects people who have difficulties understanding each other to help them collaborate better. The success of people who work with AI depends on how well they understand the working principles of this technology.

WE SHOULD FOCUS ON CREATIVITY AND MEANING

Cross-functional alignment and collaboration are essential to growth. Multi-disciplinary knowledge of AI and its impact on society, business strategy, industries, and public policies is essential. In the new age, we have to focus on creativity and be better than machines. We must look into solutions that allow humans and machines to complement each other, maximizing the potential of both.

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So far, machines cannot really replicate the imagination. Elevating humans to higher-value tasks benefits organizations—and any individual’s career progression and work satisfaction. Machines can liberate human employees to do more meaningful work, which is why research estimates U.S. productivity will rise 40% by 2035.

WE HAVE TO EMBRACE HUMAN-MACHINE PARTNERSHIPS

Understanding the differences between AI and humans will be one of the most crucial skills for the future. For example, we’ll need to identify which parts of an organization should be managed by AI and which should be managed by human beings.

With this in mind, let’s look at what machines can currently do better than humans. Right now, machines are superior at ongoing monitoring: They will have a lower error rate than humans at repetitive tasks and more consistent information gathering and analysis. That develops a vast knowledge base that is easily accessible.

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That said, humans can develop fruitful partnerships with machines in the following ways:

• Creative problem-solving: Humans can use their emotional intelligence to interact with the machine using natural language and have the machine understand them. This would help with problem-solving as the machine will have a deeper understanding of the human’s concerns.

• Emotional intelligence: As humans embrace computing, they should learn more about AI and how it works with machines more effectively. It is like building a bond between you and your car: If you cannot understand how the car works, it is hard to become friends with it.

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• Computational thinking: AI can understand human emotions and context because it understands natural language processing and computational capabilities. On the human front, understanding the design principles that underlie computing systems would help people working within these systems understand how they work to build upon them.

MOVING FORWARD

The future of jobs depends on how well people understand AI and use their unique skills to improve AI systems rather than being threatened by them. Having clear roadmaps for individuals to learn computing will help humans and AI come closer together.


Mark Minevich is Chief Digital Strategist, International Research Center on AI under auspices of UNESCO, Sr. Advisor, BCG, member of WEF GFC on AI,  B20/G20.

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