The increased use of AI in white-collar workplaces means the changes will be different to previous workplace transformations. That’s because, the thinking goes, middle-class jobs are now under threat.
Above all, choose a job that you enjoy and keep learning—so that if you do need to change course in the future, you know how.
Published: Thursday, August 24, 2023 – 12:02
Automation undermines the idea that a good education will secure a good middle-class job. As economist Richard Baldwin points out in his book The Globotics Upheaval (Oxford University Press, 2019), if you’ve invested a significant amount of money and time in a law degree—thinking it’s a skill set that will keep you permanently employable—seeing AI complete tasks more cheaply than a junior lawyer could is worrisome.
Finally, remember that when people previously feared jobs would disappear and tasks would be replaced by machines, this wasn’t necessarily the case. For instance, introducing automated teller machines (ATMs) didn’t eliminate bank tellers. But it did change their tasks.
But there is another, more aspirational way to think about this. Some books stress the potential of humans collaborating with AI to augment each other’s skills. This could mean working with robots in factories, but it could also mean using an AI chatbot when practicing law. Rather than being replaced, lawyers would then be augmented by technology.
It’s true that specific skills are at risk of becoming outdated as technology develops. However, more than learning specific abilities, education is about learning how to learn—that is, how to update your skills throughout your career. Research shows that having the ability to do so is highly valuable at work.
You may find yourself working alongside AI, not necessarily replaced by it. Image credit: Andrey Popov/Shutterstock
Critical thinking and analytical skills are going to be particularly central to how humans and machines can augment one another. When working with a machine, you need to be able to question the output that is produced. Humans are probably always going to be central to this—you might have a chatbot that automates parts of legal work, but a human will still be needed to make sense of it all.
A recent poll found that more than half of people aged 18–24 are worried about AI and their careers. The fear that jobs might disappear or be replaced through automation is understandable. Recent research found that a quarter of tasks that humans currently do in the U.S. and Europe could be automated in the coming years.
Our PROMISE: Quality Digest only displays static ads that never overlay or cover up content. They never get in your way. They are there for you to read, or not.
In light of this, learning is one of the most important ways you can future-proof your career. But should you spend money on further education if the return on investment is uncertain?
However, someone has to pay for this content. And that’s where advertising comes in. Most people consider ads a nuisance, but they do serve a useful function besides allowing media companies to stay afloat. They keep you aware of new products and services relevant to your industry. All ads in Quality Digest apply directly to products and services that most of our readers need. You won’t see automobile or health supplement ads.
Quality Digest does not charge readers for its content. We believe that industry news is important for you to do your job, and Quality Digest supports businesses of all types.
Future-Proof Your Career in the Era of AI
You may find yourself working alongside AI, not necessarily replaced by it
I analyzed 10 books published between 2017 and 2020 that focused on the future of work and technology. From this research, I found that thinking about AI in the workplace generally falls into two camps. One is expressed as concern about the future of work and security of current roles—I call this sentiment “automation anxiety.” The other is the hope that humans and machines collaborate and thereby increase productivity—I call this “augmentation aspiration.”
Anxiety and aspiration
In reality, automation and augmentation coexist. For your future career, both will be relevant.
As you think about your own career, the first step is to realize that some automation of tasks is most likely going to be something you’ll have to contend with in the future.
I found a strong theme of concern in these books about technology enabling certain tasks to be automated, depriving many people of jobs. Specifically, the concern is that knowledge-based jobs—like those in accounting or law—that have long been regarded as the purview of well-educated professionals are now under threat of replacement by machines.