Skills and traits that will help you outperform any AI | by Swapnil Kangralkar | Jan, 2021


Artificial Intelligence | Machine Learning | Jobs and AI

How to augment machine intelligence and what the future will look like for humans in terms of jobs

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Advances in smart assistants like Alexa and Google have brought remarkable convenience into our day to day lives. e.g. seeking a quick weather report, translating languages, listening to world news, and today you can also send virtual hugs to your Alexa contacts. With recent Artificial Intelligence (AI) breakthroughs like AlphaGo, IBM Watson, self-driving cars, and many more, the concern of AI taking over our jobs is real.

Can you imagine the impact of these applications on humans as they advance? Eventually, everything would be done for you by an AI. Now, the question is, what value would you be adding to the business or the organization? What will your job look like and should you be worried? As organizations accelerate the growth of AI to displace labour tasks, what does this mean to you and all the routine jobs out there? Can we find any opportunity in this or should we just be prepared to surrender?

AI will indeed replace a lot of routine and operational jobs in the coming decade, and it will affect workers from different countries, industries, and income-levels differently. Most of them may simply be unemployable.

Unfortunately, most predictions of job losses confuse AI with automation. Automatic car wash centres, assembly line robots are some examples of automation and not AI. Recent AI developments, although impressive, are very limited in scope and require a lot of human supervision and intervention. The success of AI is only possible if it is combined with human intelligence, where both complement each other.

Today if we analyze the prior industrial revolutions, we know that they have ultimately benefited mankind and society as a whole. Yes, they did result in job losses due to mechanization and automation, but they also gave rise to a lot of new jobs that didn’t exist before. Here are a few examples,

  1. During the second industrial revolution, new sources of energy like electricity, gas, and oil were invented. With the transition from steam power to electricity, there were a lot of steam mechanics who lost their jobs. However, new jobs like electricians and electrical engineers were created.
  2. After the third industrial revolution, the invention of Personal Computers (PC) displaced a lot of jobs in book-keeping. However, it also created many new jobs that were not even known before. With so many PC’s there was a need for labour who could operate and support them, thus giving rise to new roles like Informational Technology (IT) call center agents, computer repair technicians, programmers, etc.

So, what jobs of today can we expect to be displaced by AI. Below are some examples in my opinion.

  1. Data entry jobs — With advances in applications like speech to text, image recognition, and data preprocessing, collecting and storing data from various sources into the database or to the cloud can easily be done by a machine. Probably faster and better.
  2. Stock exchange jobs — With advances in neural networks, manual trading may be completely replaced by algorithmic trading wherein powerful computers running complex mathematical formulas can make smarter decisions to generate better returns. Currently, many institutional traders are already using this technology.
  3. Other jobs most susceptible to AI are the ones that require minimum to zero customer interaction e.g. hotel & travel bookings, cashiers, delivery personnel. Technology like chatbots, cashier-less stores, drone deliveries will probably completely displace all these jobs.

So, what can we do, and which new roles will be in demand?

Although AI is advancing, it does not mean it will take over all our jobs. At least not shortly. Technology adoption lags way behind technology development. Primarily due to the huge costs of implementation, and most importantly, cultural resistance. It is imminent that AI will displace routine and operational jobs, and give birth to new advanced jobs. Our job is to learn and adapt and prepare ourselves to pivot to those new jobs when they are out there and in demand. It is important for humans to quickly switch to sectors that will experience growth.

Tasks such as collecting data, reporting, forecasting, information sharing are believed to be routine and can be replaced by an AI. However, tasks like strategic planning, communicating, managing, and decision making would still need human intervention. This is where we humans will need to collaborate with AI and augment machine intelligence by making informed decisions.

Here are some skills and traits that we should hone, to position ourselves better in the growing world of AI.

Adaptability — Today, humans need to be more prepared and adaptive than before. We prepare for one thing and by then the next new thing is out there. It is important to adopt the practice of continuous learning into our lives to keep ourselves updated. Time keeps changing and today it changes quicker than ever before.

Creativity — Over the long term, creativity is what will distinguish humans from machines. By taking over routine jobs, AI will help us shift and focus our energy on creativity. Use the help of machines to collect and analyze data, and then collaborate and organize quality circles to derive insights and come up with creative ideas and solutions.

Critical thinking — As humans, our greatest assets are our human traits. Curiosity and creativity have brought us to where we are today. So get curious, ask all sorts of questions, and seek answers. Analyze data, practice critical thinking, and try to solve the complex problems of today.

Leadership — As machines master the routine tasks, we need to elevate ourselves to a more strategic role and focus on creating strategies that can deliver value to our business or organization. Today’s AI is not capable of understanding the physical, cultural, and psychological needs of people. But as humans, we are equipped with emotions and therefore we should learn to show empathy towards others. Empathy, communication, and teamwork are the most critical traits in a leader and you can develop them to push everyone to success.

Finally, to put things into perspective, think about this – the auto-pilot feature for airplanes was invented almost a century ago, and even until today with so many advances in technology and AI, there is not one commercial airplane that is completely autonomous. Pilots are still in demand and are still required to support and monitor the systems inside the airplane. However, we do have Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles (UAV) for military purposes. So the technology is there. Although, companies like Boeing and Airbus have been experimenting with pilotless airplanes, operationalizing them is complicated due to government regulations and labour unions’ involvement. What’s doable, a self-driving car on roads that are missing the supporting infrastructure and with thousands of other cars or an autonomous airplane in the skies? For what it’s worth, all the hype around driverless cars taking away driver jobs is far far away from being a reality. At least for the next decade.

Conclusion — Nobody knows and nobody can tell you for sure, what the future will look like. Our role today is to adopt the practice of continuous learning and be prepared when the time comes. We have to identify the things that are at the core of humanity. We have to get more creative and learn to empathize with others.

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.” — Albert Schweitzer

Thank you for reading!

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