Beware the Bot: Is AI really taking human jobs?

It’s not unusual for rapid technological changes in society to take off quickly, but even by tech innovation standards, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has been impressive. The accelerated growth in AI use cases in recent years is causing a shift in how we work, and the technology may even replace workers in some capacities. But is AI taking over? Not necessarily. Like most technologies, AI will not completely displace humans from the labor market. 

We’ve been here before. The rise in AI is often compared to the industrial revolution and the digital revolution. Like machines and computers, AI takes on certain mundane or manual tasks and elements of human jobs. For many knowledge workers, the technology complements their intellectual activity and frees them up for more human-centric work. 

Deloitte named this period the Age of With™—an era defined by human-with-machine collaboration. The company’s State of AI in the Enterprise, 5th Edition report surveyed global business leaders to track the advancement of AI across industries. The report revealed that many organizations are realizing the benefits of using AI to augment the workforce, not replace as many jobs as possible:

  • Only 30% of organizations indicated a strong desire to automate as many jobs as possible
  • 43% have appointed a leader responsible for helping workers collaborate better with intelligent machines
  • 44% reported using AI to assist in decision-making at senior-most levels

AI limitations keeping humans relevant 

AI does not have emotional intelligence. It’s incapable of showing empathy or creating something entirely novel. It lacks contextual awareness, and cannot think outside the box. Another limitation is AI’s inherent bias, which raises questions about the responsible and ethical use of AI. For instance, if a machine learning algorithm is fed information that is biased in some way (data were only gathered from students at an Ivy League school vs at community colleges across the country), the rule sets that the AI will be basing its decisions on will be skewed heavily towards that data set and would inherently create inequalities for other people. Or look at the AI tech that’s been dominating media headlines in the last few weeks, ChatGPT. Systems like ChatGPT make powerful statistical associations among words and phrases, which they use to generate the language. These associations are subject to the biases of the people training the tool (i.e. anyone using it). As such, tools like ChatGPT have the potential to learn and generate prejudiced and otherwise offensive content. Although it’s possible to design and operate AI to attempt to prevent bias against groups or individuals (such as OpenAI’s guardrails that decline inappropriate requests), the critical ability to make ethical and fair decisions around data requires human oversight. 

In a nutshell, AI is simply a set of tools that organize, structure, and analyze data to create a requested output. Matthew Bishop, the senior editor at The Economist, said at the World Economic Forum in 2017: “AI is going to have a really big impact on jobs that are essentially about pattern recognition, looking at data and seeing trends and predicting the future. They’re not in jobs that involve elements of judgment and creativity.”

The future of work belongs to those who know how to analyze trends, think creatively, and ask the right questions. We need to let technology do what it does best, and combine this with our human intellect to make our work more efficient and accurate while maintaining proactivity and creativity. 

That’s not to say the nature of work isn’t changing 

According to McKinsey, 375 million workers (about 14% of the global workforce) may need to switch occupations as a result of automation by 2030. The same research found that two-thirds of executives said they’ll need to replace or retrain over a quarter of their workforce within the next five years. Stats like this, taken out of context, have fueled the perception of AI taking human jobs.

But where one door closes, another one opens. The caveat is that we need to make sure we’re prepared to enter it. With the rise of AI, today’s workplace requires employees to commit to learning new skills and be willing to adapt to change. AI is continuously learning and constantly improving, and humans need to do the same in order to remain relevant and competitive. Employers need to be aware of this need to progress, and offer upskilling and reskilling opportunities to their employees, which can help to overcome talent shortages. In particular, providing a pipeline of continuous learning opportunities and emotional intelligence training is the starting point to meet the increasing demand for interpersonal skills. 

Training your team is a necessary investment in your company’s future

One best practice for training human-centric skills is to use highly contextual scenario simulations that mimic real-world challenges, offering opportunities to “play in the gray” and experiment with complex decisions—this is where the magic happens, and behavior change begins. Blueline’s training simulations are designed to help your people develop emotional intelligence skills that set them apart from the bots. Contact us today to learn more or schedule a private demonstration for your company.

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