The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has triggered a series of questions about the future of work. The most common one being will technology replace our jobs? And if so, to what extent?
My answer is twofold:
First, we need to understand what AI is and the capabilities of this technology. Second, we should be aware of the skills that bots are unable to excel at, so we can develop professionally in these areas.
Let’s start by understanding what AI means
AI is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence displayed by humans and other animals. As a concept, AI refers to a machine being able to think for itself and subsequently make decisions based on the data that it has been trained with.
What are the current capabilities of AI?
AI is best used when it comes to processing high volumes of data, completing mundane tasks, and answering basic level questions in areas like customers service or recruitment. Because of detailed algorithms, AI systems are now able to perform computing tasks quickly and efficiently, helping us make strides in research and development.
Some of the most notable real-world applications of AI include IBM’s Watson, which is being used to power research across a range of fields, and Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning, which has made headlines globally. AI smart assistants have also become commonly used and welcomed in people’s homes, like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa.
These are the job skills of the future that bots can’t master
Having an imagination and thinking outside the box means that you can come up with ideas and that don’t already exist. While AI machines can create art, music, and write, they do so by recognising patterns and analysing data as opposed to producing something new. Coming up with the initial seeds for a concept that hasn’t previously existed is uniquely human.
Even if a person doesn’t identify as being an inventor, a musician, or an author, having the ability to think in abstract terms will help solve problems, regardless of the job. For example, if a person works in recruitment, and their goal is to attract candidates to the company job page. They’ll need to think outside the box to hypothesise new ways to attract applicants. Then, they can experiment with various methods such as social media and content to find the optimal way to source applicants. By contract, if a machine were in charge of sourcing candidates, it would only utilise channels which it has previously “learned” based on the data used to create its algorithm.
Another aspect that makes us human is the ability to empathise with others. This is especially useful in service related fields or areas dealing with people. For example, impress.ai, an AI recruitment software for recruiters, can perform the initial stages of qualifying candidates by conducting competency based interviews at scale. After that, to complete the hiring process, a human would need to be involved to physically meet candidates and make the final decision. No matter how developed AI chatbots become, they will not have the innate ability to connect with and understand people on an emotional level to make final decisions.
Simple put, bots cannot “see” themselves in another person’s shoes, which is a skill required for tasks like interpreting a person’s feelings, working well in group settings, and effectively communicating ideas. Empathy is just one of many interpersonal skills which are necessary for positions in management as well as implementing projects across organisations. Can you imagine a bot solving a conflict between employees? Or artificial intelligence attempting to calm an employee during a departmental layoff? Didn’t think so.
If you’ve ever played chess online against a computer, you’ll know that it’s as competent and competitive as playing against a real person. Strategic games like these tend to be bound by rules and outcomes based on logic. They’re predictable, for example, “if this, then that” and therefore relatively easy for a computer to “learn.”
However, when it comes to real-world scenarios, the future is not as predictable. Many jobs require navigating through uncertain outcomes, shifting priorities, and filling information gaps. For example, project managers have to balance various factors, consider timelines, and weigh priorities when planning assignments across teams to meet one common goal.
4. Physical Ability
In the same way that people can appreciate the creativity and unique talents of a cartoonist or a script writer, they can also appreciate the level of skill required when a human being is able to hit a home run, come first in a race, or score the winning touchdown.
For centuries, humans have come together to cheer on their favourite team and have been inspired by the dedication of athletes. Playing (or teaching) a sport is just one example of a career that requires a unique skillset which can’t be replaced by a machine.
Imagine if a bot could replace a lawyer in legal matters. In ambiguous situations, it would be unsettling to allow AI to call the final shots. In matters related to ethics, things are not always black and white. Put simply, the concept of “should” versus “should not” doesn’t exist for a bot.
Despite scenarios where facts may be supported by the law, many conflicts involve a degree of emotion and irrationality. For example, either side of a legal case may not proceed rationally, or may have hidden motives. Because of this, much of a paralegals’ time and effort involves searching for and gathering data, which is a repetitive task where a bot would excel. However, the position of a lawyer or a judge, which both involve a higher level of thinking, cannot be replaced by a bot.
Regardless of where your career takes you, it’s important to understand the skills where bots can’t replace humans, and to take steps to upskill yourself in at least one of the areas involving creativity, empathy, planning, physical ability, or judgement.
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