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AI could change tomorrow's jobs

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22nd-Oct-2017       
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Joanna Hughes :
Many claims have been made about the vast potential of artificial intelligence (AI). And indeed, from sheep-shearing robots to self-driving Lyft cars, the possibilities are near-endless when it comes to what AI can do for the world and the people who live in it. However, the fanfare over AI is not without its share of alarm-especially when it comes to the future of the workforce. While we may not know exactly what to expect, here's a closer look at four ways experts think AI may change what jobs look like moving forward.
 1. Jobs may change in nature but won't disappear.
When most people hear the words "AI" and "jobs" they immediately jump to the topic of machines replacing human workers. However, this may be a leap in the wrong direction. According to Euan Cameron, PWC's first UK artificial intelligence leader, it's not about whether machines will take human jobs, but rather about how they'll change them.
Cameron told Marginalia, "In many cases the nature of jobs will change rather than disappear because of AI. And automation will also enable some workers to focus on higher value, more rewarding, and creative work, removing the monotony from their day jobs. We are of course expecting new types of roles too."
He continues, "There has always been disruption whenever new technology has ticked. We saw it with the industrial mass production, the internet, personal computing, and enterprise technology. In all those instances, the technology created periods of rapid disruption in terms of jobs. New technology has always made some tasks and roles disappear more quickly, but it also has created new occupations. This is how our society has evolved. The same is true with artificial intelligence."
The takeaway? As with most things in life, the ability to adapt and evolve can mean the difference between survival and extinction.
2. Some fields will be more affected by AI than others.
This isn't to say all jobs are safe. Machines are very good at certain manual and routine tasks, and this will lead to job replacement-particularly in more susceptible sectors like transportation and storage, manufacturing, and wholesale retail trade. Healthcare, customer service, and finance are also projected to be among the industries most impacted by AI-both in terms of job replacement and job enhancement.
But even these vulnerabilities aren't necessarily cause for concern so long as workers commit themselves to staying productive and relevant. Says Cameron, "We need to develop an attitude towards continuous re-skilling. It's about understanding and recognizing that existing relevant skills, that we may have spent so much time on to develop, might not be sufficient or applicable throughout our career. It requires the ability to adapt over time and retrain throughout our working life in the face of the accelerating pace of technological change."
3. The hiring process will improve.
Computers have already vastly accelerated the hiring process. However, AI is expected to play an increasingly pivotal role in the human resources sector.
MarketWatch recently highlighted two types of software aimed helping employers find the best employees for jobs: "Such software often works in one of two ways: spotting the most promising resumes among what may be an unmanageable deluge, or widening the net so employers can find a more diverse pool of candidates than they would select on their own."
Meanwhile, HubSpot director of recruiting Becky McCullough told MarketWatch of the impact of AI on the company's hiring productivity, "It has set new benchmarks for response rate [the percentage of candidates who reply to a recruiter's solicitation] and we can a/b test various outreach tactics. It has put more rigor [into our process] and given us access to more data on candidates who are either very early in our recruiting process or are not yet there but who we're trying to engage."
4. Job tracking will become the status quo.
As it turns out, people may have just cause to fear losing their jobs because of AI-but not because of job replacement. Rather, because AI-enabled productivity tracking will offer employers new insights into how employees are managing their job duties and responsibilities across everything from how they're using their computers to where they're spending their time. In other words, spend too much on Facebook and your boss will know about it.
Tracking workers' behaviors and computer use may even become valuable retention tools for employers. For example, copying a database of contacts may signify an employee's intention to leave a job, whereas shifts in language are also telling. Veriato Chief Security Officer David Green told MarketWatch, "If the tone of a typically happy person suddenly goes negative, there may be an alert that they're at risk of flight, insider threat or even just a productivity problem that needs remediation."
Ultimately, while there's no definite what to know what AI means for jobs, it is coming and will change both the workforce and the world at large. Adopting a strategic approach can help you not only embrace whatever AI brings, but also to play a role in harnessing that potential toward the greater-not to mention your own-good.

(Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family).

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