Digital transformation continues to shape the way millions of people work across the world. The rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence is viewed as both a step forward and a potential threat to jobs worldwide – how will AI impact the workforce in the coming years?
1. AI both complements and substitutes human skills
The question on everyone’s lips is whether AI will replace human work or complement it.
“The reality is that AI will both complement and substitute for human skills, as technology has always replaced human labour throughout history,” comments Preston McAfee, Corporate Vice President and Chief Economist at Microsoft.
Technology like AI will have a positive impact on complementing skills and driving higher-skilled jobs that require operating and maintaining new technologies and machinery.
Skill complement examples include the use of AI voice recognition technology to produce documents faster in court proceedings and meetings, replacing the arduous task of word-for-word transcription.
While work per se can be completed faster and automated, the need for higher-level work where humans add the finishing touches to the processed information will increase.
On the other hand, lower-skilled or time-consuming jobs will more likely be replaced in time, requiring employees to upskill and focus on complementary work in the industry.
A skill substitute example is the use of AI to analyse medical images in the health profession, which then provides decision support for the medical team.
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2. AI encourages future-ready skills for the digital age
The right question to ask around AI and its influence on today’s marketplace is how work can become more valuable in supporting future technologies, and vice-versa.
While lower-skilled or time-consuming jobs become obsolete due to task automation and fast processing and data analysis, people have a unique opportunity to advance their skills for the digital age.
Job skills training remains vital in the digital economy. “The key for workers is to make AI work for them, like the court reporters using AI-based transcription and doctors using AI for decision support,” writes McAfee.
AI-powered apps and tools such as Microsoft HoloLens and Delve can tremendously simplify and assist people in working better and faster in their chosen fields.
3. AI frees more time for higher-level work and the things that matter
Overall, the fourth industrial revolution and AI is the catalyst humanity needs to focus on things that matter and meaningful work.
For some, it could mean embracing new careers and new opportunities and learning valuable digital skills. Job specialisation and strong deductive skills will matter in the context where AI-enabled machinery will perform more and more automated tasks, mine for complex data, and analyse it.
“Although technology always replaces some aspect of human labour, economists typically believe that doesn’t matter to total employment in the long run—because there are infinitely more things we would like done,” concludes McAffee.
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