Artificial Intelligence’s Impact On Jobs Is Nuanced

Well, is artificial intelligence a job-killer or not? We keep hearing both sides, from projections of doom for many professions that will necessitate things such as universal basic income to help sidelined workers, to projections of countless unfilled jobs needed to build and manage AI-powered enterprises. For a worker losing his or her job to automation, knowing that an AI programming job is being created elsewhere is of little solace.

Perhaps the reality will be somewhere in between. An MIT report released at the end of last year states recent fears about AI leading to mass unemployment are unlikely to be realized. “Instead, we believe that—like all previous labor-saving technologies—AI will enable new industries to emerge, creating more new jobs than are lost to the technology,” the report’s authors, led by Thomas Malone, director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, conclude. “But we see a significant need for governments and other parts of society to help smooth this transition, especially for the individuals whose old jobs are disrupted and who cannot easily find new ones.”

The future of AI and job growth — or losses — may be nuanced, a recent report from BCG and Faethm suggests. “Though these technologies will eliminate some jobs, they will create many others,” the report’s team of authors, led by BCG’s Rainer Strack. “Governments, companies, and individuals all need to understand these shifts when they plan for the future.”

What needs to be understood? For starters, “the net number of jobs lost or gained is an artificially simple metric to gauge the impact of digitization,” Strack and his co-authors state. “For example, eliminating 10 million jobs and creating 10 million new jobs would appear to have negligible impact. In fact, however, doing so would represent a huge economic disruption for the country—not to mention for the millions of people with their jobs at stake.”

There’s even a paradox in play. Computers tend to perform well in tasks that humans find difficult or time-consuming to do, “but they tend to work less effectively in tasks that humans find easy to do,” the report notes. Also, in many areas, technologies “will improve the quality of work that humans do by allowing them to focus on more strategic, value-creating, and personally rewarding tasks.”

In other words, AI can’t take over many of the soft skills essential to businesses growth — initiative, intuition, passion, and ability to sell ideas and concepts. Add that to more technical abilities needed to build and maintain AI and digital environments — and keep them focused on what the business needs. “In many sectors, severe shortages of skilled workers will mean that growth in demand for talent will be unmet,” Strack and his co-authors state. “This is particularly true for computer-related occupations and jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math, since technology is fueling the rise of automation across all industries. This is why the computer and mathematics job family group is likely to suffer by far the greatest worker deficits.”

At the same time, there will also be increasing demand for jobs requiring compassionate human contact, such as health care, social services, and teaching, they add.

Along with the BCG-Faethm’s observations, it should be noted that AI cannot replicate the entrepreneurial skills that will be pulling together technology solutions and platforms to connect to the needs of markets. Humans are the innovators.

What to do? Strack and his team urge people to take charge of their professional development through lifelong learning. “Individuals will have to take greater responsibility for their own professional development, whether that means through upskilling or reskilling,” they state. “Pay attention to sources of information and update skills accordingly, either by searching out high-quality providers of education or by charting your own course amid the vast amount of online-learning offers.”

The BCG-Faethm team also makes the following recommendations from a corporate perspective:

  • Think strategically in terms of hiring. “A company should regularly assess the current size, composition, and development of its workforce. It should also evaluate future demand on the basis of strategic direction and determine the gaps for certain jobs and specific skills.”
  • Support upskilling and reskilling. “Given the rapid shifts in skill requirements and the number of entirely new tasks and roles that are emerging, the labor market will be unable to supply sufficient new talent to fill available positions. Companies therefore need to supplement external hiring with internal development initiatives and on-the-job training.”
  • Create a lifelong learning culture. “Corporate training used to consist of certifications or intermittent training programs, but the digital economy will demand a constant upgrading of skills. Content and skill upgrades should be delivered in a variety of formats so that they can be integrated into the daily routine of every employee, ensuring a nimble and agile workforce.”
  • Rethink talent recruitment and retention strategies. “Companies may need to shift the recruitment focus from hiring for skill to hiring for will: as some of the skills needed in the future (such as coding computer languages) will most likely be self-taught or come without an explicit certification, HR professionals will need to view candidate criteria with a more open mind and embrace diverse curricula. Companies may also opt to create an employee pool to which people with new skills can be added without yet knowing which field of operations they’d be best suited for.”

 

Original post: https://www.forbes.com/sites/joemckendrick/2021/03/31/artificial-intelligences-impact-on-jobs-is-nuanced/amp

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