Scenes of hordes of robots working in factories, businesses, and homes used to be the stuff of science fiction films. As artificial intelligence and computer technology has improved, however, these scenarios are becoming more of a reality.
WorkFusion, a company specializing in intelligent automation for the workplace, describes artificial intelligence (AI) thus:
AI gives machines the ability to learn, reason, and understand. It uses historical data and realtime human action to train algorithms to do work the same way a person would – only faster and without errors. AI is branch of computer science, and Machine Learning is the mature branch of AI that is used today by leading businesses.
In one sense, the arrival of artificial intelligence into the workplace has the opportunity to make our work lives easier through getting rid of menial job tasks that used to be done by humans. This allows human workers to dedicate more time to creative and productive tasks that don’t require the “assembly-line” mentality.
However, as artificial intelligence has the ability to supersede human intellect through using reason and even learning from experience, might AI one day negatively affect the job market through making humans superfluous? Below, we look at three different views in which artificial intelligence might likely affect the job market for Millennials and other younger generations.
The Optimist View
On one side of the debate, there are those who believe that the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence technologies into the workplace will actually increase the amount of jobs available to people. Proponents and supporters of artificial intelligence claims that AI will free up human labor from the menial and repetitive tasks that have long been associated with factory work and other types of businesses. This freedom from tedious and unskilled tasks will supposedly allow workers to engage in other types of work.
Furthermore, as artificial intelligence technologies spread throughout our globalized economy, more skilled workers who know how to implement, manage, and work alongside AI technologies will be needed to accompany the transition of the economy into the AI era. Artificial intelligence could very well create new professions of skilled workers who know how to adapt to the workplace conditions garnered by AI technologies.
Enthusiasts for AI in the workplace often point to a 2017 report that claimed that artificial intelligence technologies would create half a million more jobs than it would replace. However, in order to be in position to take advantage of these new jobs, workers will need to be increasingly adaptable and able to learn new skills. Furthermore, worker mobility will be highly prized as skilled workers who understand how to manage and work alongside AI technologies will need to be able to “go to where the jobs are.”
The Other Side of the Coin
On the other side of the debate, there are those who believe that artificial intelligence technologies will actually completely replace human beings and consequently lead to massive unemployment.
One Gallup poll suggests that Millennials are by far the most vulnerable to the changes in the workplace that will come with AI, as almost 40% are at risk of having their skillset be replaced by more efficient (and less costly) artificial intelligence. However, it is worth mentioning that many jobs in the current marketplace already demand workers to continually update their knowledge and learn new skills in order to maintain relevance in a rapidly changing economy where technology plays a major role. Thus, AI might not drastically change Millennial job security, especially for younger workers who are accustomed to the need for worker flexibility.
Older workers, on the other hand, are certainly less vulnerable due to the fact that they often hold senior positions at their workplace and have already “ascended the ladder,” so to speak. Obviously, older generations who have secured jobs wherein they are the ones who will be making decisions related to the adoption of AI related technologies, are not likely to want to replace themselves.
The majority of people who fear that AI might eventually “replace” them in the workplace are most likely already vulnerable to losing their job due to an unwillingness to adapt to changing workplace conditions. Our society is increasingly dependent on technological advances, and those who do not learn the new skill to maintain their relevance, they will most likely be replaced by other human workers who know how to adapt.
The Middle Ground
Lastly, there are those who take the middle ground. Since AI is still in its infant stages, it is hard to know exactly how all this will play out and affect the job security of Millennials and other younger generations. This neutral view tends to believe that the adoption of artificial intelligence into the workplace will be gradual enough that it will allow younger people to adapt their skillset in order to keep up with the changing workplace environment. It will be necessary, however, for younger workers to be increasingly flexible and willing to relearn professional tasks so that they can stay ahead of the learning curve as AI becomes more present in the workplace.
On an encouraging note, there is really no way to tell what revolutionary changes AI might bring into the workplace. As AI increases productivity and innovation, it might very well open up new and exciting work challenges that could not only fundamentally change, but also drastically improve the job possibilities for millions of young people around the world.
Written by Ruchi Gupta