Is Alexa stealing your Job? How AI is Shaping the Future of Work

March 12, 2019
By Chris Girardi

It’s powering Siri and Alexa. It’s ordering Facebook’s newsfeed and Instagram’s explore page. Sure it’s not fully baked yet, but even in these early stages Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are already changing everything from the way we interact with different people right down to how we work - and they’re only set to do more.

Stolen jobs? Mass-unemployment? A better way to work? For good reason, there’s a lot of buzz about AI in the workplace. So, we thought we’d break it down for you and share some predictions for the future of work - don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom!

Hey Siri, what is AI?

You can probably put two and two together and work out that Artificial Intelligence is… intelligence that’s artificial (not human). But it’s important to distinguish it from another common buzzword - machine learning.

Machine learning is probably what we’re more familiar with. It’s the way Netflix learns which shows you like or how Facebook shows you content ‘relevant’ to you. Chances are, even your smartphone’s camera uses some level of machine learning to produce those portrait mode selfies you can’t wait to gram. BUT, machine learning is just one piece of the AI pie - the part that helps it work out how to improve itself and be more helpful.

AI on the other hand is the actual system of intelligence - something that can learn and do things just like a human without getting tired or cranky. We haven’t reached the stage of Matrix-like intelligence, but there are a whole host of online tools that implement some form of AI to help you work smarter and make many old, menial tasks completely obsolete.

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Alexa, please don’t take my job!

AI promises to automate many time-consuming, labour-intensive manual processes. While this might sound great at first glance, a 2013 study from Oxford University estimated 47% of jobs in the US would be under threat from automation in the next two decades. And, to make everything seem even more grim, The World Bank predicted in 2016 that 69% of jobs in India, 77% in China and 85% in Ethiopia may be at risk from automation.

Reading all that, it doesn’t feel like there’s much cause for celebration - but that’s really not the case. Sure AI may end up relieving us of manual labour, but it won’t mean we’ll all suddenly struggle to find work - here are just 2 of the many reasons why:

1. AI needs to be developed

While machine-learning helps AI get better at what it already does, it’s otherwise pretty dumb. AI doesn’t think for itself, it just follows code to give the illusion of autonomy. Someone, somewhere has to tell it what to do in the first place, and with the industry only set to balloon in the coming years, more and more people will switch from jobs replaced by AI to jobs creating AI.

2. Humans excel at using soft skills

Unlike number crunching machines, lines of code, while potentially able to imitate emotions, cannot as yet actually feel emotion. That means that where AI may be great at data analytics or assembling a car, even into the future it will struggle to have the same emotional intelligence as a human.

Ultimately, no, AI won’t make us all jobless. Sure, it’ll change the type of work we do, but humans still have skills to offer the AI cannot beat - skills like emotional intelligence and coding that are some of the top 7 skills you can develop in 2019.

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Ok Google, what about my business?

Global spending on AI is predicted to reach $77.6 billion by only 2021 (up from around $19.1 billion last year). As well as that, an estimated 40% of all enterprise digital transformations this year will use AI in some capacity. That means that if you’re running a business, it’s either get in or you’ll get pushed out.

When AI takes over a lot of manual work, it means we’ll all become more productive and have to spend less time slaving away with physically demanding manual tasks. It’ll make it easier for us to produce products or analyse the currency of our digital age - data. That way businesses can better know their customers, and better target their experience as a result.

But, to make sure you’re not left behind in the AI revolution, you’ll need more than just a customer’s name and phone number - the more data you have, the better equipped AI systems will be to make informed predictions or decisions. On top of that, you’ll need employees that are prepared to work alongside AI, implementing, using and maintaining it.

There’s definitely a learning curve, and it’ll take time to successfully implement systems that use AI in your business. But, if you don’t get started now, considering the rate of change you might risk your business getting left behind.

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Getting Ahead in 3 Simple Steps:

  1. Lean in - We’ve seen time and time again that technological development is inevitable, and those who resist it get left behind!

  2. Research - Don’t worry, you don’t need a beautifully cited essay! But, learning more about different tools relevant to your business is a great way to help lead your team to digital victory.

  3. Upskill - This goes for both businesses and individuals. Take some time to develop transferable hard and soft skills (like our top 7 for 2019) to make sure you’re ready to thrive in the workplace of the future.

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