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20/06/2023 11:50 AM 253

Will Artificial Intelligence Steal Our Jobs or Create New Opportunities?

The rise of artificial intelligence has sparked heated debates on how it will impact jobs. Alarmists warn that AI will automate millions of jobs and create widespread unemployment. Optimists believe it will enhance productivity and create new opportunities. The truth likely lies somewhere in between. While AI will inevitably displace some jobs, with the right strategies, we can ensure workers are equipped to adapt to the AI revolution.

The Looming Threat of Job Loss

There’s no denying AI has automation capabilities that threaten certain jobs. A famous 2013 study from Oxford University estimated that 47% of US jobs are vulnerable to automation in the next 10-20 years. These include positions in manufacturing, transportation, customer service, and administration that involve routine, repetitive tasks.

One major area of concern is transportation. The prospect of self-driving trucks becoming mainstream is worrying for the 3.5 million truck drivers in the US. A single autonomous truck could replace two or three human-operated ones, decimating the need for drivers. The rise of self-driving taxis and delivery vehicles puts 13 million additional transport jobs at risk too.

Other occupations like telemarketers, data entry clerks, retail workers, and food service employees are also vulnerable, since AI chatbots and robots can potentially substitute much of the human labor.

While the Oxford study has received some criticism, it’s hard to deny AI will significantly disrupt certain occupations. A 2019 OECD report estimates 14% of jobs across 32 countries are highly automatable, affecting over 66 million people.

The Silver Lining: Job Creation and Productivity

However, AI isn’t all doom and gloom for employment. Alongside automating manual labor, AI can generate new human jobs too.

For one, AI implementation will require positions like AI researchers, engineers, programmers, and cybersecurity specialists. The market for AI skills is booming; LinkedIn reported a 74% annual growth in AI job postings between 2015 and 2017. New roles centered on translating data insights into business solutions will also emerge, employing people across levels and functions.

Moreover, AI can augment existing jobs by enhancing productivity. For example, an HR manager could use AI to quickly source and screen candidates, freeing up time for more strategic tasks like interviewing and onboarding. Agricultural workers can deploy AI to monitor crop conditions and automate routine activities like spraying fertilizer, allowing them to focus on higher-level decision making.

According to a recent McKinsey survey, over half of companies adopting AI and machine learning boost employee productivity by up to 30%. And an Accenture study found AI could raise business productivity by 40% by 2035.

Rather than pure replacement, AI will likely involve reconfiguring job roles so humans and machines complement each other’s strengths. The World Economic Forum expects machines will take over predictable physical activities and data processing, while humans handle social and emotional interactions and complex problem solving. This human-machine collaboration could both create new kinds of jobs and make existing work more productive and rewarding.

Adaptation is Key

While AI brings opportunities, realizing the benefits requires individuals and institutions to proactively adapt. 

At an individual level, workers should look to develop transferable skills that make them resilient regardless of AI disruption. As machines excel at routine technical tasks, there will be greater demand for innately human strengths like creativity, empathy, communication, and problem solving. Learning agile, flexible skill-sets will enable people to transition across occupations as needed.

Educational institutions also need reform to make curriculums more future-ready. Most school systems still prepare youth for the jobs of yesterday rather than the careers of tomorrow. Updated programs teaching digital literacy, data science, creative thinking and interpersonal skills will give students lifelong advantages. Governments similarly need workforce development programs to re-skill vulnerable workers.

Finally, policymakers should develop safety nets to support displaced employees. This could include unemployment support, financial incentives to enter high-demand fields, and transition assistance programs. With the right institutional frameworks, societies can harness AI transformation for broad-based prosperity.

The Road Ahead

In essence, while AI will significantly alter the employment landscape, doomsaying predictions may be exaggerated. Rather than mass joblessness, we’ll likely see a reconfiguration of tasks between humans and machines. AI implementation will involve transition pains for impacted industries. But with foresight, planning and adaptation, we can ensure humans remain complementary to, not replaced by, our intelligent creations.

What are your thoughts on AI’s job impact?

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