15th November 2019

The impact of artificial intelligence on industries & individuals

Technology has been changing the way people work since before recorded history. In the past, it may have been steam-powered machinery, but today artificial intelligence is the technology that is changing the way we conduct business.

The presence of artificial intelligence is already being felt in a number of different industries, but the technology is only just getting started. One report suggests that AI could increase productivity by up to 40% by the year 2035. Already, consumers and companies alike have experienced AI with innovations like chatbot marketing and smart medical tools.

While artificial intelligence offers some clear benefits for business, its impact on workers is not always clear. Some professions are relatively safe when it comes to the possibility of AI taking over many of the jobs. In other fields, there is a significant threat that much of the workforce could lose their jobs to autonomous systems. In addition to that, you also have several fields where artificial intelligence is going to be used to assist the worker and make the job better or safer.

A New Approach to Work

Healthcare is one industry in which artificial intelligence has the potential to assist workers without posing too much of a risk of taking jobs away from humans. AI systems could help healthcare professionals that are working with patients that are chronically ill. Additionally, it could help with insurance issues, and it could even provide assistance with analyzing lab work or detecting and diagnosing illnesses.

For many industries, AI represents an exciting future for the workforce, but you still have to consider what to do about the many jobs that will be lost to robots and AI. A 2017 study from PwC estimates that around 38% of all jobs in the United States are at high risk for machine replacement as the result of automation.

In many ways, the changing landscape of work is going to require changes to the way we look at education and training. In many industries, workers are going to learn new skills as AI systems integrate in with the workplace. In other situations, employees are going to need to seek out new skills as automation reduces or eliminates the number of jobs in a specific industry.

We are already starting to see these efforts toward reskilling take shape for some industries. As automation has resulted in significant job loss in the coal industry, efforts have been underway to provide out-of-work coal miners with new skills.

One such example comes from Bit Source. This Kentucky software company is retraining the state’s unemployed coal miners and turning some of them into software developers.

How AI Affects Those Entering the Workforce

Young people are also going to need to think about the potential for automation as they get ready to start their first jobs. A career path that made sense for a young person 10-20 years ago may not provide much of a future for people entering the labor market of today.

This means that we are going to need to do more to predict which jobs are under imminent threat from automation, and steer young people toward careers that are going to maintain their relevance in the job market of the future.

Even with an opportunity to learn a new skill, the loss of jobs to automation is going to be disruptive. In the model of Bit Source, the chance to learn coding provided out-of-work coal miners with a new profession, and a similar model could work for people that are losing their jobs in other industries. It might not be software development that fills the gap, but there are millions of jobs that are left unfilled in the United States.

The key challenge is matching the workers with the unfilled jobs, and then finding ways to ensure that these individuals have access to the training they need to fill these jobs. For the workforce of the future, it would be better to avoid the need for mass reskilling. This means identifying the jobs that machines can’t replace and providing young people with the skills they need to fill those jobs.