Popular new consumer technology often gives rise to its fair share of ominous doom in public discourse—and the recent rapid adoption of generative AI and tools such as ChatGPT has so rankled the establishment that some tech executives have called for a six-month moratorium on continued innovation in the space. But, as the saying goes, you can’t stop progress. And businesses hungry for easy ways to scale and inexpensive productivity solutions have been quick to integrate AI into industries ranging from content production to human resources to healthcare—no surprise, as modern history lays bare a graveyard of last-century juggernauts that failed to innovate in the digital age.
When artificial intelligence (or any new technology) arrives in a workplace, some automation inevitably follows. So what does the future look like for workers and the job market? Are job losses inevitable, or will new sectors emerge that will spur job creation?
“There are countless examples throughout history [of] organizations not paying attention to disruptive technologies—similar to Encyclopedia Britannica or Blockbuster not evolving,” says Phenom VP of global strategy Cliff Jurkiewicz. “For roles that can leverage the technology, there will be immense benefits . . . [But] not learning the skills to drive generative AI may be likened to a failure to embrace the personal computer versus sticking with a manual typewriter—at some point, this technology will become essential to one’s work.”
According to data from LinkedIn, the number of job listings mentioning GPT have increased 51% from 2021 to 2022, with recruiters worldwide seeking AI-related skills, and workers responding in kind. Year-over-year, some of the most popular skills added to LinkedIn member profiles in 2022 include generative AI-adjacent question answering (+332%); classification (+43%); recommender systems (+40%); computer vision (+32%); and natural language processing (NLP) (+19%). At the time of publication, more than 100,000 LinkedIn job listings mention artificial intelligence in the description.
To avoid going the way of door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen or Yellow Pages publishers, adapting to an AI-driven workplace will mean learning to leverage technology as a tool—similar to how using the internet or specialist software can create enormous opportunities for scaling entire industries.
“Back in the day, people did not want to use Photoshop because it was their job to physically be in the cutting room making collages, putting them onto a litho, and printing them out,” says Phrasee CEO Parry Malm. “Fast forward to 2023, and there are more designers in the world now than there ever were in the history of humankind. . . . What Photoshop has effectively done is created new jobs—making editing less of a specialism and more of a possibility for the average person to use.
“With this recent explosion of AI, particularly generative AI, the same thing is going to happen,” Malm says. “It’s going to absolutely obliterate some job categories, but it’s going to create new job categories—like this stuff always does.”
WILL AI TAKE OVER JOBS?
In the current U.S. economic environment, many companies are turning to AI to backstop the recent labor shortage, which, according to a Chamber of Commerce report published last month, is impacting the health services, professional and business services, and trade, accommodation, and the food service industries most of all.
“I just attended the ProMat conference, and you know what was exciting people? Pick robots,” says Oii.ai CEO Bob Rogers. “That’s right! The ones that identify, load, sort, and carry packages in a warehouse. The fear before was that robots would take over people’s jobs; but in reality, companies are turning to robots because there’s a labor shortage. They can’t find enough people to fill the positions.”
So, while college students might be outsourcing their schoolwork to ChatGPT, there’s still some time to go before we see a wholesale AI takeover in the job market. Even in the near future, it may be only easily automated roles that are on the line.
“People both overestimate and underestimate the impact AI is going to have on jobs,” Malm says. “What will change in five years’ time are things people haven’t even started to worry about yet. For automation or any high-skilled job whose business model is predicated upon billable hours, I would be existentially worried about that. But where people get it wrong is thinking it’s going to destroy all jobs.”
Among the most-cited jobs liable to be impacted by AI implementation: data entry, customer service, assembly-line work, and content production. Advances in AI will also continue to affect the automobile industry, healthcare, banking, e-commerce, and retail.
“Roles with a high degree of repeatability and especially those that work in language will be automated with the advances in large language models [LLMs],” says Cleo founder and CEO Barney Hussey-Yeo. “For instance, there are millions of Americans who work in customer service roles today and even more globally who will face displacement due to technological changes from AI.”
While that might seem alarming, especially for the millions of professionals working in those fields, developing the skills to leverage AI tools can create even greater opportunities for growth that would otherwise be nearly impossible to achieve.
“Organizations that possess a skilled workforce with high levels of critical thinking will now be able to supercharge their operations, make better decisions, and strategically move into new opportunities that previously were not possible,” says Drayton Wade, Kognitos head of product strategy and operations. “Critical thinking, EQ, and ‘asking the right questions’ will become the most highly valuable skills—far more than pure analytical abilities or functional knowledge. By democratizing the ability to automate manual repetitive work and bring the means of production to non-developers, organizations are up-leveling everyone in terms of productivity and enabling them to think bigger.”
WHAT JOBS WILL CHATGPT REPLACE?
For Deexith Reddy, a data engineer at Detroit tech consulting company Slalom, ChatGPT has become a helpful tool at work. He uses generative AI to perform everyday tasks, such as converting code from one language to another, finding error sources in code, optimizing code, and cleaning up code and syntax.
“I could do what would take [me] three days in a matter of four to five hours with the help of ChatGPT,” Reddy says, adding, “I feel generative AI will cause a drop in demand for software engineers and coders for general coding purposes and decrease salaries for tech workers. What would take five engineers three months to produce will take two engineers one month’s time.”
With the current capabilities of AI being ‘the worst it will ever be,’ a key phrase to note in Reddy’s testimonial is ‘general coding purposes’ — emphasis on the general.
“I don’t see it as ‘AI replacing jobs,’ rather, AI is taking over mundane work,” says Oii’s Rogers. “Just take the latest rage in AI: ChatGPT. It’s a chatbot. But who actually wants to sit there and answer the same questions from customers over and over? People who fear AI need help understanding AI. It’s meant to enhance humanity. Look at some of the jobs that reports have said are ‘at risk.’ Programmers, engineers, software builders, even lawyers or doctors—AI can actually speed up their processes, or help them achieve higher levels of accuracy.”
While repetitive, responsive tasks and roles may be easily replaced with AI in the next few years, Rogers also points out that advancements in technology come with job creation in new sectors, such as engineering. Using AI in certain industries, such as human resources and recruiting, can even come along with some surprising benefits, such as impartiality.
“AI-powered benchmarking can be the key to remaining competitive and avoiding hiring biases, allowing organizations to make informed, data-driven decisions based on objective criteria.” says Frida Polli, Harver chief data science officer. Though it’s not without potential pitfalls: “When misused, it can eliminate quality talent, creating an artificial hiring war in what is already a tight labor market. By leveraging AI-powered benchmarking, organizations can attract the right candidates while avoiding the common pitfalls of hiring bias, ultimately giving them a significant competitive advantage despite macroeconomic conditions.”
Similar to how the popularization of the internet and social media made some forms of media obsolete while creating new opportunities and job sectors, so will the rise in AI inspire adaptation, innovation, and creativity.
“In the near term, AI is more likely to change the nature of jobs versus fully replacing them,” says Authenticx CEO Michael Armstrong. “A software engineer will spend less time writing code and more time understanding the business problem they want to address with their software. It will likely open the door for people with differing skill sets to excel.”
WHAT JOBS WILL AI CREATE?
ChatGPT was launched as a prototype in November 2022, and in a few short months, the consumer AI craze has already created new jobs and popularized once-niche tech industry sectors.
“AI is already creating new jobs—from Deep Learning stack architects to prompt engineers,” says Flavio Villanustre, SVP of technology and chief information security officer for LexisNexis Risk Solutions. “If someone would have asked me what a prompt engineer was six months ago, I would have been puzzled.”
Looking ahead on the job market horizon, experts predict a boom in emerging technology jobs as access to engineering tools and capabilities become increasingly democratized through generative AI.
“I’m excited that a career in software engineering will become a mainstream role in society with the help of AI and not just a role for the privileged few with advanced degrees,” Hussey-Yeo says. “I believe we’ll see a whole sector of AI trainers and teachers that will prompt AIs to complete more and more complex tasks with a higher degree of accuracy. These types of jobs will be commonplace in all major corporations within the next few years.”
For the time being, creative and interpretive jobs—such as teachers, psychiatrists, investigators, and politicians—are probably safe. Think of it as tasks being at risk, not human ingenuity, says Rogers. “Repetitive, time-consuming tasks are where AI thrives, and where humans do not,” he says. “In these cases, AI can greatly reduce human error because it doesn’t ‘tune out’ while performing repetition.”
Way back in the 1990s, when households across the country received their first AOL CDs in the mail and began connecting to the internet, choosing screen names, and meeting in chat rooms via dial-up modems, there was no way to predict where we’d be 30 years on—in the wake of broadband, smartphones, Wi-Fi, and social media. Just imagine the possibilities in years to come.
“The rise of AI signifies the dawn of a new age in human history—an era that will witness the birth of industries and job opportunities unimaginable to us today,” says Rijul Gupta, Deep Media cofounder and CEO. “In this brave new world, the job market will evolve to accommodate novel industries, forging a diverse array of opportunities that cater to the unique skill sets of tomorrow’s workforce. From ethical AI oversight and AI-enhanced design to AI-driven healthcare and education, these emerging fields will herald a renaissance of human achievement fueled by our partnership with AI.”
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