AI and The Job Market: Are Robots Really Going to Take Our Jobs? [Part 1]
From Hollywood blockbusters to Harvard research papers, AI has been a highly debated and controversial topic for decades.
The possibility of robots replacing humans has lingered over our heads for decades, but today it seems more realistic than ever.
In 2019 both giant businesses and tiny startups are working with AI daily.
The job market is already shaken up by this adoption and it’s only going to get worse (or better, depending on your opinion).
Today we want to shed some light on the matter.
This is the first of our two articles on AI and the job market. We’ll talk about the history of AI, the current state of the job market, the benefits of AI and automation and about a few jobs that are already going extinct.
We aim to answer one question: Are robots really going to take our jobs?
But first, a quick look at the history of AI.
Brief History of AI
In the 1950s the term “artificial intelligence” was introduced at a workshop at Dartmouth College.
This decade was heavily influenced by the work Alan Turing who defined the Turing Test – an evaluation of a machine’s ability to act in a way that’s indistinguishable from a human. Also, Isaac Asimov wrote a bunch of sci-fi stories, inspiring scientist and tech geeks all around the world.
In the 60s and 70s, Hollywood began to take notice and robots started appearing everywhere. The world was introduced to a very basic and oversimplified representation of AI.
A couple of years went by before the commercial value of AI was discovered. Even so in 1985, IBM began developing Deep Blue – a chess-playing computer. In 1997 that computer became the first computer system to beat a reigning world chess champion (Gary Kasparov) in a six-game match. AI had officially come of age.
During the 2000s, technology advanced rapidly and AI was at the forefront. By 2010 there was no doubt that AI was here to stay.
In 2014 a chatbot managed to beat the Turing Test by convincing 30% of the judges that it was human. The results were pretty controversial, but this was still a massive achievement.
Today a huge number of tech and non-tech businesses are using AI without hesitation.
Consumers also rely on AI-based tech daily without even realizing it. According to Pega, only 33% of users think they’re using AI-powered technology when, in reality, 77% of users use services or devices powered by AI.
The Tech Boom and The Job Market
Now that we know AI is here to stay, let’s look at the last fundamental change in the job market – the tech boom.
In the late 90s and early 00s, the Internet changed the game for everyone. Technology developed rapidly and the job market was utterly shaken up.
Internet jobs were an entirely new segment of positions. Traditional sectors, like banking and insurance, were radically changed. New business models were born and some old ones became irrelevant.
The point is we saw a revolution in the job market caused by technology quite recently. A couple of key takeaways from the Internet boom might give us an insight into what awaits us in the future.
First, in the last 20 years, people, especially in developed countries, have worked way fewer hours on average.
With the exception of Lithuania, all OECD countries have reduced their average yearly working hours per worker since 2000. Leaders in this category, like the Netherlands and France, used the tech boom to keep their working hours among the lowest in the world. Countries like Switzerland managed to reduce their average working hours per worker by a ridiculous 254 hours a year since 2000.
Also, technology created a whopping number of new jobs, some of which people couldn’t have ever imagined. Professions like mobile and web developers, UX/UI designers, SEO experts, bloggers/vloggers, digital marketers, dropshippers, cloud engineers and many others were inconceivable in the mid to late 90s.
Because we take the tech boom for granted, it’s hard to fathom just how massively the job market has changed.
AI will undoubtedly revolutionize the job market, but it’s not like we didn’t go through a similar process with the Internet.
With that in mind, it’s time to look ahead to the future.
AI and The Future of The Job Market
First, let’s look at some numbers
- In 2018 71% of total task hours were performed by humans, 29% by machines. By 2022 that proportion is estimated to change to 58% by humans, 42% by machines.
- By 2022 75 million current jobs might be displaced as a result of the division of labor between humans and machines, while 133 million new jobs might emerge. In short, that’s a net positive job growth. As with the Internet boom, AI will also create jobs that we can’t imagine right now.
- The percentage of stable roles (48% of all positions) won’t change from 2018 to 2022. That said, in 2022 there will be an 11% increase in new roles and a 10% decrease in redundant roles compared to 2018.
- There’s going to be an average shift of 42% in required workforce skills by 2022.
- Besides technological proficiency, skills that will continue to grow in prominence through 2022 are analytical thinking, innovation, creativity, active learning, critical thinking, persuasion, emotional intelligence and leadership. Tech skills will be vital, but they won’t be enough in the job market of tomorrow.
So, machines will perform more tasks in the future. Pretty logical and not that interesting.
The skills part, on the other hand, is quite fascinating. According to the report, despite the increased use of AI and other technology, soft skills will not only remain relevant, but their importance will increase.
The McKinsey Global Institute similarly predicts that by 2030, demand for technology skills will obviously skyrocket, but social and emotional skills will also increase in demand by over 20%.
In a 2019 interview with 60 Minutes, one of the biggest authorities on AI today Kai-Fu Lee said that 40% of the world’s jobs will be displaced in the next 15 years. The interview quickly went viral, but it didn’t highlight some of Lee’s most essential views on AI. In his book AI Superpowers Lee acknowledges that many manual and repetitive tasks will be done by robots. At the same time, the right skills and mindset will allow us to survive and even excel alongside robots in the workplace.
Lee says that a couple of purely human qualities will be the difference-makers in the future: empathy and imagination. Since the majority of us don’t want to talk to (or take orders from) robots, the leaders of tomorrow will need to be more emphatic. Emotional intelligence and compassion can’t be replicated by AI (at least in the foreseeable future).
Therefore emphatic jobs will be on the rise in the next fifteen years.
The McKinsey Global Institute also predicts that by 2030, employment growth for teachers and care providers (classic emphatic positions) will increase dramatically in the biggest economies in the world (except for Japan). In China, demand for teachers and care providers will increase by more than 120%. In India, the demand for those jobs will increase up to 242%.
As AI takes over most manual tasks, our purely human qualities will shine through. Empathy, imagination, creativity, leadership – these will be the skills of the future.
And no – jobs won’t cease to exist. We’ll still need to work, but our mindset needs to change if we want to thrive alongside AI.
So, research seems to indicate that robots won’t take over all our jobs.
We’ll need different skills, but we won’t be replaced by robots anytime soon.
This conclusion might be comforting, but it’s only half the picture.
As we already mentioned, there’s going to be massive job displacement.
Some jobs are going to be transformed entirely.
Other jobs are likely going to disappear forever.
That’s what we’re going to cover in our next article on AI and the job market. Next week, we’ll look a few jobs that are already disappearing as well as a few other problems produced by AI and automation.