Artificial Intelligence is already impacting every industry through automation and machine learning, bringing concerns that AI is on the fast track to replacing many jobs. But these fears aren't new, says Dan Jackson, director of Enterprise Technology at Crestron, a company that designs workplace technology.
"I'd argue this is no different than when we moved from an agricultural to an industrial economy at the turn of the last century. The percentage of people working in agriculture significantly decreased, and it was a big shift, but we still have plenty of jobs 100 years later," he said.
Anytime society experiences a major technological advancement, we need to be prepared for it to change the way we live and work. It's hard to imagine what the future of jobs will look like with AI, but that future exists. And optimists suggest that, like the sewing machine to the textile industry, AI will make us better, more efficient and faster workers.
Overblown fears over AI
Antonis Papatsaras, PhD, AI expert and CTO at SpringCM, a contract and document management company, agrees that some concern is warranted, noting it's "consistent with historical reactions to innovation." Similar concerns were voiced during the Industrial Revolution, but they never held up -- instead of replacing jobs, humans were needed to operate the machinery.
"Time after time, we see jobs adapt and shift," he said.
Adam Compain, CEO of ClearMetal, a predictive logistics company, agrees that most fears around AI are disproportional, and -- if we're being honest -- based off movies and TV. Instead of focusing on the fictional "what-ifs" of AI, we should be building strategies to ensure AI doesn't negatively impact employment.
"Artificial Intelligence is named so because it replicates our own way of thinking and, particularly in the application of machine learning, it's a helpful aid in recognizing patterns, managing overwhelming complexity, and handling tasks far too tedious for us to understand," says Compain.
Experts agree that AI has the potential to eliminate mundane, administrative work, while we will always rely on human workers to be empathetic, collaborative, creative and strategic. But it's impact on any industry lies in the hands of the business leaders who are responsible for adopting AI strategies.
Tim Estes, CEO of Digital Reasoning, a cognitive computing company, said that "we cannot reasonably expect the jobs market to remain inflexible to a changing world." Instead, businesses who approach AI with an open mind and embrace the change will find ways to create new jobs, while those who "shun opportunity are most at risk."
Training presents challenges
A recent study of 1,000 global companies by Accenture found that AI is already creating three new categories of jobs: trainers, explainers and sustainers. Trainers are the people who teach AI systems how to act -- whether it's language, human behavior or the intricacies of human interaction.
Explainers are the liaison between technology and business leaders, providing more insight and clarity into machine learning for the non-tech workers. Sustainers are the workers required to maintain AI systems and troubleshoot any potential issues.