Guide: Upgrading Your Career for AI

Guide: Upgrading Your Career for AI

In this article, you’ll learn about how AI will impact your career and our labor economy. In addition, you’ll learn how to upgrade your career to prepare for the coming wave of AI-automation.

Will AI take my job?

This is probably the most common question that I get asked when I tell people that I work with AI. During each of the previous technology revolutions, we’ve seen fundamental shifts in employment. During the agricultural revolution, we saw the rise of the farmer and a decline of the hunter and gatherer.

During the industrial revolution, we saw the rise of the factory worker and a decline of the artisan and craftsman. During the information revolution, we saw the rise of the knowledge worker and a decline of the manual laborer.

During the AI revolution, we will likely see a similar shift in careers within our labor economy. Imagine you could ask a horse in the early 1900’s how the automobile or tractor would have changed its life. It probably would have told you that a car or a tractor was going to make it’s life a lot easier. Unfortunately for the horse, these technologies also made them obsolete to the economy.

In fact, we hit “peak horse” in 1915 just as the automobile and tractor began to scale up in production. Today, the emergence of modern AI is beginning to have a strong impact on our labor economy. In the near future, this impact on labor will likely be tremendous.

AI will automate a significant number of jobs in the next few decades. Given the economics driving this trend it’s less a matter of *if* a given job will be replaced and more a matter of *when*. Some experts are currently attempting to predict which jobs are most likely to be automated based on measures like their repetitiveness and complexity.

Based on these measures, we can see what type of AI technology will be necessary to automate a variety of occupational tasks. For example, we can see which retail jobs will likely be automated in the coming years as AI continues to be applied to retail sales. Even the medical industry isn’t immune to the coming wave of automation. While these medical tasks are generally more complex and less repetitive than most jobs, they are rapidly becoming within the reach of modern AI.

We can then extrapolate this information to determine which sectors of our economy will be hit the hardest by AI automation. The length of the bars in this chart represent the total number of workers in each type of employment in the USA as of 2016. The red bar segments represent the proportion of jobs at risk of automation in the next two decades.

While the blue bar segments represent the proportion jobs that are not at risk of automation in the next two decades. As we can see, the future landscape of labor in the next few decades is likely going to look radically different than it currently does today. In fact, we can even use these data to predict which cities will be most impacted by unemployment from AI automation.

As we can see, Las Vegas, Nevada, where I live, is currently at the top of the list. In fact, it’s predicted that 65% of all jobs in Las Vegas are at risk of automation by 2035. And roughly half of all jobs in the United States are at risk of automation in the next two decades.

There are certainly jobs that will be more resistant to automation. These jobs require more human aspects like compassion, creativity, empathy, and trust. However, there many jobs today that are unlikely to exist in the next few decades. This will create a tremendous disruption to our labor economy with unemployment, retraining, and early retirement.

On the other hand, it will create tremendous opportunities for new jobs that don’t yet exist and for the IT professionals that build  these automation systems. The big question right now is whether AI will create more jobs than it eliminates?

Historically, technology revolutions have created more new job opportunities than they’ve destroyed. However, there’s pretty compelling evidence to suggest that the AI revolution may be different. We’re beginning to transition from an economy where most of the work of value is done by humans to one where most work of value will be done by machines.

As a result, it’s important that you ask yourself:

Which side of this new economy will your job be on?

The side that’s leading our new economy …or the side that’s being eliminated.

How should you upgrade your career for AI?

What should you be doing today to prepare your career for the coming wave of AI automation?

First, determine if your job is at risk of automation from AI.

Is your job simple, repetitive, dangerous, error prone, or expensive? If so, it’s at a higher risk of being automated. Or is your job complex, creative, compassionate, or uniquely human?

If so, it’s at a lower risk of being automated. However, it’s important to note that most jobs will not be completely automated. Rather, many of the day-to-day tasks within your job will become automated, but some tasks will still remain.

As a result, you may likely spend most of your day essentially managing software or babysitting robots. In addition, one AI-assisted worker will likely be able to do the job of several regular human workers. So there will be less total workers needed for each type of job and competition for those jobs will likely become more fierce.

Second, decide if your company is at risk of becoming obsolete within our AI-first economy.

Are you in still using traditional business tools and processes while your competitors are automating with AI?

Are you still relying on guesswork while others are using data to improve decision making?

Or, are you in an industry that is currently being disrupted by a new AI-enabled business model?

If so, you either need to help your company embrace AI now or you may want to find an employer that’s already moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, it’s quite likely that many employers that are resistant to automation using AI will not survive this impending technology revolution.

Third, you need to choose an AI career path.

You need to decide how closely and deeply you want to work with AI. If you want to train AI models, you’ll need to find a company with lots of data and compute power for training these AI models.

If you want to develop AI applications, you’ll need to work for a tech company with access to pre-trained AI models  from 3rd-party providers.

If you just want to use AI tools to improve your efficiency, then you can work for anyone – provided that they encourage the use of new AI-enabled tools.

Ultimately, you need to decide what you want to do with AI before you can choose your career path.

Forth, get into the AI value stream.

You don’t need to work at Google to make a good living in our new AI economy. However, you do want to be part of the AI value stream or the ecosystem built on top of  these new technologies. This can involve working for tech companies in horizontal markets that are positioned within the AI value stream.

For example, companies working on:

the Internet of Things, Big Data, virtual reality, augmented reality, robotics, and drones. Or it can involve working for vertical industries that are built on top of AI technologies.

Essentially, look for industries that generate lots of data to train AI models or use AI models to improve their existing products and services.

Finally, focus on the uniquely-human aspects of your job.

Avoid specializing too deeply on the tasks that can be easily automated. These include tasks that are simple, repetitious, error prone, or dangerous. Instead, specialize in the aspects of your job that cannot be easily automated. These include aspects like: human interaction, creativity, compassion, and establishing trust. These are the tasks that will still remain when all of the mundane tasks have been automated away.

To recap our second recommendation:

  • Upgrade your career for AI.
  • Determine if your job is at risk of automation,
  • decide if your company is at risk of becoming obsolete,
  • choose an AI career path,
  • get into the AI value stream,
  • and focus on the human aspects of your job.
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