There is an overwhelming sense of the uncanny when it comes to the prospect of Artificial Intelligence taking our jobs. But, dystopian hype aside, the future of work is something that needs to be given real thought and consideration in order to secure a future that works for everyone. This goes beyond being simply a technological problem but a societal one.
We are defined by what we do within our society. Just think, when you first meet someone the question ‘what do you do?’ will always spring into the conversation. 'I’m a data scientist', 'I’m an engineer' or the like will be your answer, rather than the many other things that you do and find joy in doing regularly. 'I’m a gamer', 'I binge watch Netflix' or even 'I’m an avid environmentalist' just wouldn’t suffice. So how do we navigate a future where AI takes our defining roles away?
The entire ritual of work has become so ingrained in us. We get up at the same time each day, morning commute, attend meetings, answer emails, leave for the commute home at the same time each day and so on. Alleviating ourselves from this routine could open up huge possibilities for the progression of society and human kind as we know it.
Leaders in the field of Artificial Intelligence such as Elon Musk have recently shown their support for a universal basic income when the loss of jobs to AI happens on a large scale. If this happened, to diminish any need to make money, a creative, tech driven utopia could well flourish. Instead of working stacking shelves or filling out spread sheets all day just to keep a roof over your head, you could focus on fulfilling or creative pursuits you otherwise might not have the time for, or previously lacked financial backing to support.
There is potential for repetitive and dangerous jobs to no longer be something us humans have to concern ourselves with. We’re already seeing certain jobs succumb to technology, Foxconn has begun replacing human employees with robots, having already deployed them in their factories.
Not to mention the increase in technology being used in hazardous jobs. In the UK this year, we’ve seen the first police drone unit launched. Robots are already used in recovery missions too, from fires and natural disasters navigating dangerous environments, through to bomb disposal.
Whilst this has ethically questionable repercussions as workers get laid off, it’s hard to argue with the logic behind companies doing so. A robot worker costs less per head than a human per hour, you won’t get a robot calling in sick or taking holidays throughout the year. Not just this, but they’re faster and can work ‘longer hours’. They won’t need employee benefits and managing them won’t require costly HR departments.
Private hire drivers, delivery workers, translators, warehouse and shipping staff to name a few are among the first jobs we could expect a full takeover of. And even more creative jobs that you least expect like AI writers, musicians, and even lawyers have already seen the beginnings of this job revolution.
But, with the loss of ‘old jobs,’ we’re bound to see new jobs created. Little over a decade ago an App Developer job role did not exist, it came with the arrival of the iPhone and Android around 2007. And Social Media Marketers only appeared with the advent of Facebook, Twitter and so on in the past decade. Volker Hirsch has suggested in this insightful TED Talk that we may see jobs like Memory Augmentation Therapist, Plant Educator, Nano-Weapon Specialist and Diffractive Optics Modeller appear in the coming years. But with this comes the demand for a huge shift in education and what basic skills need to be included in curriculums to ensure future generations have the tools to take these on.
There are limitless possibilities as to what we can turn our hands to. We need to get over the fear of being left jobless by AI and embrace the change, learn new skills and transfer the ones we already have. As AI will undoubtedly change the working landscape for us all (especially us recruiters), we must change and adapt with it and look to what amazing things we can create and pursue what we’re passionate about.