AI and the future of jobs: Elimination or transformation?
AI and the future of jobs: Elimination or transformation?
While AI is creating new professions and required skill sets for creative jobs, experts believe that people who adapt to the new 'AI era' will have the most advantage in employment
Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly evolving and reshaping human life, and experts say it is about to trigger a seismic shift in the global economy and labor market — a transformation on par with the Industrial Revolution.
As a rapidly evolving field, AI is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines that are capable of learning, adapting, and even surpassing human capabilities in certain tasks.
Its impact on diverse sectors, from health care to finance, is raising interest, along with concerns about its potential to reshape our world, particularly certain fields of employment.
In a recent report titled "Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work,” the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that AI could affect as much as 40% of global jobs, particularly in office-based roles. This displacement could exacerbate income inequality, the IMF added.
“ AI is set to profoundly change the global economy, with some commentators seeing it as akin to a new industrial revolution,” it pointed out.
Philip Torr, a professor of engineering science at the University of Oxford, told Anadolu that in the medium term, there would be a shift in jobs at first, with many people moving from content creation to curating or monitoring content by AI.
Torr said office jobs would be most affected in this phase, while those requiring human contact, such as caretakers and hairdressers, would be impacted least.
"If we get to general AI, then machines will be smarter than us. If we develop robots to human-level performance, then machines will be able to do all jobs that humans do. Elon Musk is already boasting that he will put everyone out of work," Torr said, commenting on the possible long-term effects of AI on global employment.
Oxford University researchers, in another report where more than 2,700 experts were surveyed, projected that AI could eventually automate all human work by the year 2116.
The widespread adoption of Generative AI (GenAI), exemplified by the emergence of ChatGPT, is accelerating the pace of this transformation.
Professionals are increasingly using Gen AI tools, such as ChatGPT and Google's Bard, for tasks that include creative text and code generation.
In the financial sector, AI is already surpassing human capabilities in market analysis, while graphic designers are facing direct competition from AI-generated art.
"If this is the case, we need to rethink who owns AI. At this point, AI will have to become publicly owned and owned by everyone, and we could achieve a utopia in which people don't have to work if they do not want to ... I call this the AI Utopia. But it will require abandoning capitalism, as it will have outlived its usefulness," Torr said.
Some jobs may cease to exist
"The truth is that nobody really knows what the impact of Gen AI will be in the long run," said Andrew Rogoyski, director of innovation and partnerships at the Surrey Institute for People-Centred Artificial Intelligence at the University of Surrey.
"There are careers that will cease to exist in a few years' time. We can no longer look forward to a job for life. Instead, we will have to learn new skills and adapt as technologies change the world of work," Rogoyski said.
He underlined that the launch of ChatGPT had shown the early potential of Gen AI and has already impacted careers, naming journalism, scriptwriting, administration, law, and graphic design among those affected.
Pointing out that it was surprising to see Gen AI impacting creative jobs, he said: "We had assumed that low-skill manual jobs would be first to be impacted, with professional white-collar jobs seen as safe. In fact, the reverse seems to be true, with physical and artisanal jobs proving to be the safest."
The IMF estimates that up to 60% of all jobs may be impacted by AI in advanced economies.
While roughly half vulnerable jobs may benefit from AI integration, enhancing productivity, for the other half, AI applications may execute key tasks currently performed by humans, which could lower labor demand, leading to lower wages and reduced hiring, it said.
"In the most extreme cases, some of these jobs may disappear," it warned in a report.
It should be noted that AI, years since it has emerged, has improved health care, medicine development, materials discovery, and logistics, while enabling Internet searches, Rogoyski said.
" AI isn't new, but it's impact is accelerating fast," he explained.
"When using AI, we should perhaps think about the fact that Gen AI is largely driven by a handful of large US companies. We don’t control what they develop or how they deploy the technology. This will be a cause for concern among many governments who are keen to maintain the sovereignty of their digital ecosystems," he added.
Advantage for people with AI skills
Usama Fayyad, executive director of the Institute for Experiential Artificial Intelligence at Northeastern University, believes that as the world goes more and more digital, the opportunity for AI and algorithms to play a role becomes ever easier.
Comparing the rapid developments in AI to the discovery of mobile phones, Fayyad said: "It was very targeted towards business and high priority communications. But guess what? They became great instruments for spreading rumors and social media and all sorts of stuff that nobody thought about before.
"So, I think we'll see a similar effect here. As people familiarize themselves with the technology and the capability, it will find new ways that were unimagined before."
Asked how AI could affect the global jobs landscape, Fayyad gave the example of the skills required as an accountant before and now.
An accountant needed to have nice handwriting, good addition skills, and be proficiency with ledgers 60 years ago, he said.
"If you ask about the job today, most of those skills I talked about are irrelevant. Your handwriting doesn't matter. Your ability to deal with ledgers doesn't matter.
"Do we have fewer accountants today or more? And the answer is we have more accountants today than we've had in the history of human civilization," he underlined.
Explaining that automation enabled the democratization of a particular function, making it relevant to smaller businesses, Fayyad said departments and organizations of smaller scale, as well as individuals, had access to accounting skills now, making even more accountants needed now than before.
"People ask me all the time: Will AI replace my job? And my answer immediately is absolutely not. AI will not replace your job. But a human utilizing AI will replace your job if you're not utilizing it," he added.
New jobs and professions emerging
" AI is not eliminating jobs but transforming them. Employees delegate routine tasks to neural networks, but creativity and responsibility for decisions are still the prerogative of humans," Fokina said.
Pointing out that jobs involving monotonous office duties are under threat due to the development of GenAI, she said jobs for writing texts, preparing documents and analyzing big data are "highly vulnerable" to this.
Commenting on what sort of jobs could be more protected against AI, she said: "None. By analogy, one could ask: What professions can be 'protected' from the computer or the Internet. AI is, first of all, a tool that frees employees from routine work to solve more important tasks."
"We can already observe an increased demand for specialists in the field of neural network development: ML engineers, data analysts, software developers, machine learning specialists," Fokina said, adding that completely new professions such as prompt engineers, neuro-copywriters and generative designers are also emerging.
"It can be expected that the demand for AI developers will only grow and the number of new professions will increase," she said.
Global financial services firm ING's Chief International Economist James Knightley also said that highly skilled manual workers would be the most likely candidates for being insulated from AI, adding that even then, AI may be able to utilize and develop optimization strategies that could make even those roles vulnerable.
"I think everyone needs to accept that their jobs will change in some way, and those that embrace that fact and are willing to engage and learn how to utilize it effectively will obviously benefit the most or at least be less impacted," Knightley added.
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