June 25, 2019 • Richard Neisz
The Age of AI: Building Your Tech Career in an Automated Future
The robots are taking over. It seems like a common refrain these days as more and more Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning operations are incorporated into everyday work processes and activities. Many people fear the loss of their jobs to AI and the impact of new technologies on their future career growth. While there’s no doubt that AI and machine learning are disrupting the way we live and work, the reality is that AI will create more jobs and opportunities than it destroys.
From transforming businesses and boosting productivity to addressing “moonshot” societal challenges, there are many positive applications of AI. Yet, in order for us to realize them, IT professionals must learn to adapt and acquire new skills to complement the increasingly advanced machines working alongside them. Interested in a career in artificial intelligence? Let’s examine the growth of AI, its impact on our work, and what it means for your tech career.
The Growth of AI
People often assume that artificial intelligence and automation are new to the workplace. But the truth is that AI has been around for decades. Most experts date the foundations of AI to the 1950s when English Mathematician Alan Turing published a paper called “Computing Machinery and Intelligence”. In the paper, Turing introduced a method for evaluating whether machines can think. The test, later known as the Turing Test, laid the foundations for the field that would become AI.
Today, technology is pushing the boundaries of AI and leading to new discoveries about what machines can do. From self-driving cars to automated grocery store check-outs, artificial intelligence seems to be everywhere, and it has the potential to transform businesses across many sectors of the economy. AI could prove especially helpful at increasing global prosperity while aging and falling birth rates slow overall economic growth. AI is also being applied to solve complex problems in areas like medical research and climate science, using advanced algorithms and machine learning to solve the type of societal challenges humans alone couldn’t.
Of course, we can’t talk about the growth of AI without also acknowledging the problems it presents. In addition to technical limitations, AI has other issues such as data privacy, security, and the potential for bias in algorithms. Adoption is also uneven across countries and economies. While the finance, automotive, and telecom industries lead AI adoption, other sectors have struggled with new AI and automation technologies.
AI and How We Work
What does this all mean for the future of work? While AI and automation are likely to affect almost all occupations, most jobs won’t be taken over by robots. A recent report by McKinsey included an analysis of more than 2,000 work activities across 800 occupations to determine which categories of work were most susceptible to automation. The analysis found that, at current technology levels, only about 5 percent of occupations could become fully automated. For the remaining jobs, the report estimated that 30 percent of work activities in 60 percent of all occupations could be automated. The results point to the fact that while most workers will not be displaced by AI, humans will have to learn to work alongside evolving machines and technology.
Striking a similar tone, a Wired article noted that while AI is disruptive, that isn’t necessarily a negative. In fact, technology itself has historically been a net job creator. Think about the impact of the personal computer which created jobs in semiconductors, software and now app development. Automation offers the tools to create new lines of business that don’t exist yet, generating more jobs than AI will displace in the process. AI will also help many people do their jobs better – an idea summed up by Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, as “Human plus machine equals superpowers.”
So, what’s the net result of all this automation on how we work? While a few jobs will be lost to AI and machine learning, there’s much more to be gained with the increasing application of AI across industries. At the same time, however, workers must prepare for the shift in workforce skills required by automation. If AI skills aren’t broadly adopted, the future of work might not look quite so rosy.
AI and Your Tech Career
Maybe you’re considering a career in Artificial Intelligence or perhaps you want to make sure you have the skills necessary to work with future technologies. No matter what your long-term career goals, there are some things you can to do now to prepare for the coming age of AI.
First, learn and develop strong technical skills. For current tech professionals, this might seem obvious. However, as automation and machine learning expands, new applications of AI will increase the demand for advanced technological skills such as programming. As a result, keeping up with new tech developments and changes will be especially important. Industries will also need tech experts who can help deploy AI and integrate it with existing tech tools and services to maximize business value. No matter what industry you end up in, advanced tech skills will prove beneficial.
Another important detail about working with AI is explored in the book Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI. With AI and automation taking over most mundane tasks, future tech jobs are expected to fall into two broad categories. The first group is known as Trainers. These are roles that will teach AI systems, helping the machines to learn, improve and eventually mimic human behaviors. Trainers are crucial to making AI work better, while the second type, Explainers, are tasked with being the liaison between machines and human supervisors. These roles are especially important given the unease that exists around decisions made by AI. Explainers also have the vital task of examining what happens when machines do make mistakes, so that future errors can be avoided. Exploring these jobs categories today and figuring out where your skills and interests align best will give you a head start in the AI job search process.
Finally, don’t forgot about the social, emotional and cognitive skills necessary for career success. Creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence are skills that can’t be automated. Likewise, jobs that include managing others, providing expertise, and working with stakeholders aren’t going anywhere, even with the rise of AI. Ultimately, automation and AI will change the way we live and work, but skilled professionals will always be needed to work alongside these increasingly complex and sophisticated machines.
Are you interested in a career in Artificial Intelligence? Want to learn more about AI skills and career paths? Check out our open jobs or contact us to learn more!