AI and chaos in the job market

AI and chaos in the job market

People must change or risk seeing their jobs replaced by faster and better machines

Who needs store clerks? The AIS DigitALL shop is the first unmanned store in Thailand.
Who needs store clerks? The AIS DigitALL shop is the first unmanned store in Thailand.

Technology is growing faster and better than ever before. From steam power and mechanics in the first industrial revolution that began 250 years ago, we have now arrived at Industry 4.0 powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

It is inevitable that these new technologies will replace many jobs.

AI experts surveyed recently by Fortune magazine predicted as many as 40% of the jobs as we know them today will be replaced in the next 15 years. What are those jobs in the 40%?

To answer this question, we must understand the power of AI.

In the simplest terms, AI is machine intelligence that imitates human intelligence processes including learning, reasoning and self-correction.

AI technology includes automation, machine learning and robotics. It is already being used widely in industries such as manufacturing, agriculture, and technology itself. Big names such as Google, Tesla and even Netflix use AI to create better products and customer experiences.

As AI continues to grow, the better it gets and the more it is used in industries -- in many cases to do the jobs we are doing today.

While we don’t know exactly what the future will hold, it’s clear some jobs will be replaced -- or are already being replaced -- by the technological advances we are seeing today. Here are five jobs in the firing line:

Customer service inquiries: Businesses have started to integrate AI in customer services of different kinds such as face-to-face or chat inquiries online. Chatbots are now a common customer service inquiry system. They respond quickly, but they also learn quickly.

Office administration: Receptionists as well as personnel involved in data entry can be replaced by AI in the future. Anything that is monotonous and repetitive, such as data entry, can already be handled by automation.

Some businesses -- including hospitals in Belgium -- already have humanoid robots staffing their reception desks.

Health care: Robots at the front desk may be one thing, but could AI really take the job of a doctor or surgeon? This sounds scary to most of us, but with technology becoming more accurate and precise, robotic surgery -- supervised by highly trained humans, of course -- is starting to make its way into hospitals.

Logistics and transport: Traditional courier companies and food delivery services are already seeing high competition from ride-hailing and messaging applications such as Grab and Line. From sending mail without going to a post office, to having food delivered from restaurants you couldn’t order from before, many things are now possible.

Retail clerks: Many of us are regular shoppers and purchasers from e-commerce sites such as Amazon, Lazada, Shopee or eBay.

Some online sellers are now moving into the offline world but they are taking their technology with them. Amazon Go stores, for example, have no human staff. As technology gets better, many other kinds of brick-and-mortar retailers will be “hiring” more robots to serve shoppers.

The jobs AI might take over are not limited to the list above -- and that is where the chaos lies.

We may never be able to truly predict what the future may bring, but as AI gets smarter and stronger, we have our work cut out for us.

THE WAY FORWARD

Even as technology eliminates some jobs, new ones are opening up. If you noticed, the jobs listed above refer to specific tasks that AI can replace and do better than humans.

At the end of the day, AI and machine learning cannot yet replace real human emotion and the ability to read it.

Many jobs related to the understanding of human conditions such as body language, showing empathy, creativity and other characteristics might not be replaced by AI just yet.

Facial recognition and other scanning devices are improving, but there is still no algorithm powerful or accurate enough to calculate true human emotions.

The answer to this is continuous learning.

Even if AI can take over many jobs that can easily be automated, it still cannot take over skills that humans have such as empathy, leadership, creativity and so on.

We need to continue learning new things while unlearning what is no longer relevant.

Understanding that change is constant and what those changes are will help in your learning too.

If we want to stay relevant amid the change and chaos that AI could bring into our lives, we must first embrace that change, learn continuously and take on the challenges.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup), Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or visit http://www.seasiacenter.com/ for more information.


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