This “new era” of AI isn’t about making people obsolete

Published on July 17, 2019

Artificial intelligence is constantly in the media, as companies in various industries are adopting AI technology and machine learning for an ever-expanding array of operations and advanced applications.

Just in the past few weeks, we’ve seen stories on emerging AI technology ranging from self-driving cars to battling gaming robots to robotic surgery systems. AI is helping companies automate processes, develop solutions, and save time and money. The rise of AI automation is often depicted as a threat to jobs, or as a potential wide-scale replacement for human labor; some industry commentators and futurists warn that AI could potentially cause massive disruptions in society and render many people economically obsolete.

What will change and what won’t?

Is AI going to change everything overnight, potentially ushering in a dystopian age of mass unemployment and killer robots? Well…no. Despite the most alarmist pronouncements about the superhuman power of AI, the true capabilities of AI are more focused, quietly constructive, and even mundane.

Every new era of technology brings disruptions and causes people to adapt and learn new skills. If we look more broadly at the reality of how AI is being integrated and implemented in today’s workplace, the vision of the future of AI is much more optimistic. AI is not replacing humans; AI is supplementing the work of humans and is elevating the human element at work. Instead of making people obsolete, AI can help people do more of what they do best. 

Work is well… going to be “different”

AI is already being integrated into various work processes across industries. DeepMind, an AI startup, is applying AI technology to protein folding, which will potentially help create new drug innovations.

AI-powered devices like Siri and Alexa are already an essential part of millions of people’s everyday lives, and the technology for voice response and smart search is going to keep getting smarter and more precise, as the machines learn more about how to be helpful to humans. 

AI is becoming integrated into the recruiting field, as companies use AI-based technology like VCV to remove human bias from the hiring process, helping companies find and hire qualified candidates more efficiently. AI is even coming to the world of customer service. Banks are using AI chatbots to help field routine questions from customers and respond to customers more quickly, and AI chatbots are being introduced to the travel industry to help people book flights and hotels.

CES 2019 saw the introduction of the Emotibot, an AI solution that can sense and predict human emotions to help develop better customer service solutions, safer cars, and more efficient advertising and human resources work.

Broadly speaking, AI is helping companies to automate routine, replicable processes. The goal is not to replace humans, but to free up human workers to focus on higher-value tasks. 

Along with relieving people from perform automate-able tasks, AI is supplementing the work of people by helping them do their jobs better. AI is being used to help people make smarter decisions with faster, better-informed, well-sorted options.

Just as search engines and social media platforms are constantly trying to hone their algorithm to deliver more relevant results and content, to answer the exact question that people are asking, AI is also becoming useful in fields such as recruiting and executive coaching, to help companies source precisely the right job candidates or hire the coach best fit for their needs.    

AI is not killing jobs. It’s transforming them.

It’s true that AI is going to change the way work gets done – it’s already happening. But AI is not a job-killer, it’s a job transformer. AI is going to transform the way that people interact with their work and each other; new jobs are going to be created because of AI, other jobs will get better because of AI. It’s not a matter of humans vs. machines, it’s how can humans use AI to do more of what humans do best. 

A recent survey from EY at the EmTech Digital Conference found that 32% of respondents believed that AI would create more jobs than will be lost, and 20% said AI will create new jobs.

As Jeff Wong, EY Global Chief Innovation Officer, said at the conference: “With AI taking a leading role on tackling organizations’ simple and repetitive tasks, the human workforce can focus more on complex work that ultimately provides a greater level of professional fulfillment to employees and a more efficient use of critical thinking power.”

The essential human elements of work: creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, relationship-building and interpersonal service are still going to be needed, more than ever. Now is the time for organizations in all industries to invest in up-skilling their employees for the jobs of tomorrow.

Tasks will change as a result of AI, and routine processes and low-value work will be automated or reinvented. But the workplace of the future is going to need people more than ever, and it will need them to bring their best ideas and their essential human element to work.  

Chessa Eskandanian-Yee is a Columnist at Grit Daily. She is the CEO of LeaderEQ, AI-based executive coaching led by a mother-daughter duo, Chessa and her mother Katherine Eskandanian-Yee. Leader EQ aims to inspire constant improvement for business leaders and their organizations.

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