The bots are coming. It’s time to rethink your career

SUMMARY:

The advent of AI, machine learning and software bots will bring displacement to the workforce. It’s time to rethink your career, warns Unit4’s Thomas Staven

Business person working late © SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock.com Unit4 use onlyIt is no secret that artificial intelligence (AI) is growing rapidly in sophistication. As evidenced by self-driving automobiles, computers capable of diagnosing certain medical conditions and bots that can make accurate financial trading predictions, society is poised for a major revolution.

Naysayers predict there will be massive job loss as machines enter the labor pool, but history has so far proven that the economy has prospered and grown substantially due to automation. Bots are going to enter the workforce and cause displacement, that is certain. The human element will have to evolve and re-think its position to remain viable when systems become autonomous and self-driving.

It’s not all doom and gloom

Automation in the workforce has long been a fear because it results in displacement for some forms of employment. The same can be said for bots and machine learning; computers can already become self-driving, and will certainly take over tasks that are currently performed by humans. What people often forget to look at, however, is that humans are still needed for AI to be successful.

In the late 1800s, 80% of the labor force in the United States was farm-based, while today’s farming landscape employs only 2%. Despite this drastic drop in human workers on farms, the entire economy has vastly improved, and displaced workers transitioned to other forms of employment.

As AI began taking shape in the 1990s, fear struck again as new forms of automation were introduced in the form of computers and machine learning. Computers were able to process data faster than the human element, so new positions were taken, businesses expanded due to resources being freed and the workforce adapted.

Partnering with bots

Machine learning and the creation of bots that are more interactive and even intuitive will not eradicate the human element of the labor force, but they will force people to adapt and re-think their careers. Bots are capable of processing data and performing repeat functions at far greater speeds than humans will ever be capable of, but faced with a unique situation, the machine is halted. Humans are able to assess a situation and come up with a reasonable response – machines are linear and based on a “simple” syntax that cannot create semantics. In this arena, bots cannot compete with people.

The incredible power and speed of bots partnered with the human ability to adapt quickly and bring together seemingly unrelated ideas can reach currently insurmountable goals. If people learn to collaborate with bots and capitalize on what they can contribute, their focus can be shifted to where it is needed most. Imagine a world where mechanically repetitive tasks are self-driven by bots and humans are able to maximize their mental contributions.

The key to success

Capitalism thrives on competition, and a bot economy partnered with the human element will make us more competitive than ever. The workforce will become more efficient, costs will be reduced, business growth will be realized, and re-shoring of businesses currently overseas will be a consideration in future job creation.

There is a revolution coming, and it is going to change how the human component factors into the labor force. Those who choose to embrace the advances in technology, remain open-minded and increase their adaptability will remain viable in the bot economy.

Image credit - Business person working late © SFIO CRACHO/Shutterstock.com

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    1. says:

      Interesting article, Thomas. I have recently seen some opinions going further by considering the impact of AI not only as a resource, but also as a manager:

      https://medium.com/the-blueprint/ibms-watson-will-be-your-next-manager-and-that-s-actually-a-good-thing-61dcfde246c1#.vlwxff4nw

      https://chatbotsmagazine.com/natural-evolution-a-i-bots-in-managerial-positions-a165b778373#.i5goemrui

      What do you think?

    2. Thomas Staven says:

      Hi Julien,

      You’re brining up a truly exciting topic and I agree that a lot of managerial tasks can certainly be replaced by A.I. This is what I meant with: “If people learn to collaborate with bots and capitalize on what they can contribute; their focus can be shifted to where it is needed most. Imagine a world where mechanically repetitive tasks are self-driven by bots and humans are able to maximize their mental contributions”.

      I believe that an A.I. bot could be in the perfect position to for example delegate tasks or even refocus project members onto the right tasks in a project, if all the data needed was present, all the KPIs were clear, all risks were identified etc. One question is how often does that happen… but another question is should it be able to, as it says in the Chatbots Magazine article:” …be able to hold general conversation, to some degree, with its team members,…” ?

      I don’t believe an A.I. bot should fully replace all aspects of management and I don’t think it can either. People, business and the environment we operate in are extremely seldom observer intrinsic, but observer relevant. In order to run projects and lead both people and your organization in the right direction, as a manager you would have to apply rational thinking, perception and something I believe is key in being a good leader…empathy.

      Since A.I is based purely on computation of syntax and not semantics, these are qualities and behaviors we cannot expect from A.I. This is about being conscious, and consciousness is unique to our organic brain, something that we cannot recreate with non-organic material. I don’t think we ever will.

      However, I still believe that A.I. must play a part in management going forward since it has not only the possibility to remove mundane tasks stealing time away from managers to focus on the more important things, but A.I. can also augment managers with advanced analysis, predictions and even prescribe solutions to complex problems, simply because it can process vast amount of data with a speed our fantastic organic brain cannot do. This will ultimately help conscious managers in making better decisions.