AI and the changing face of the work environment

AI and the changing face of the work environment

With AI becoming ever more present in our daily lives, the noise about it replacing our jobs becomes ever louder. But is this fear justified, is our future really to be replaced by machines at work? At this stage, there are a few questions we should be asking ourselves.

Can a machine really do my job? How much value am I really adding to the business? Do I enjoy my work? Are there some tasks I actually wish could be automated?

It is a complex and highly emotive topic, and as such, there is no simple answer, only paths and choices we have to make. The aim here is not to take a side, but rather to help encourage thought and dialogue around the subject and perhaps as a result, help one better adjust to the changes we are experiencing.

In April 2018 Kai-Fu Lee gave a TED talk entitled: How AI can save our humanity. The key theme was that we can use AI to automate repetitive tasks and allow us as humans to focus on and harness our compassionate and creative sides.

There were fears that the dawn of e-mails would spark the end of the postal network, but that didn’t happen. Instead, we find the business of delivery has transformed and is actually growing. While we couldn’t necessarily have predicted that, it is a pattern we see time and time again. Disruptive technologies that automate what were human jobs, often end up creating new demands on the labour market themselves.

Is AI an opportunity for a rethink of our career paths? Kai-Fu Lee suggests it is “here to liberate us from routine jobs, and it is here to remind us what it is that makes us human.”

The less compassion required, along with a higher level of optimisation (bottom left quadrant), would indicate a high likelihood of a role being automated according to Kai-Fu Lee.

Where does your job role sit within this graphical analysis he shared? Do you agree with him in his breakdown? Personally, I believe any roles that involve direct human to human interaction will be a lot harder to automate than predicted, for example, customer service. Given the lack of emotional intelligence and empathy of current AI solutions, I believe that the best approach is a hybrid one. Let AI do the heavy lifting automating repetitive tasks, freeing up the human agents to go after those more challenging cases that require a human touch can lead to greater loyalty and future brand ambassadors.

To conclude, perhaps it is worth asking oneself: how much of my work consists of repetitive, manual tasks? Is it such a bad thing if those are replaced by technology? Sometimes adversity is actually an opportunity, in this case, to retrain, get creative and develop new social skills that make us harder to replace and keep those machines waiting a little longer!

Find the full TED talk here.

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