My answer is twofold: First, it’s important to understand the developments in AI and technology. Learn about the advancements being made and understand what AI can do. And second, focus on building the skills in areas robots can’t do well.
Jobs AI can do better than humans
While AI is making exponential advances year after year, the popular media often like to exaggerate what it is capable of for the sake of eye-catching headlines and anxiety-inducing news soundbites.
The truth is, while technology is making great strides in simplifying and automating some work, the truth is that many of these tasks are actually much simpler and fewer than you might think.
Machine learning, for example, is good at taking one type of input, call it Input A, and producing a simple response, Output B. Think of a program that is taught to recognize whether or not there is a cat in a photo. We input a series of photos, A, and the program tells us if the images contain cats, B.
(If you have Photos on your Mac, you can see this in action for yourself. Open the program and search your own photo collection for cat or dog or even something like cake or tea. Most of the results will be accurate, and some, often amusingly, won’t.)
While this has the potential to simplify and automate many different types of work, it also has two main drawbacks. First, the program requires massive amounts of learning data to begin to produce Output B reliably. So, in our example, you would have to provide the program with tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of examples of photographs and tell the program whether or not they have cats in them so that it can learn what a cat looks like in many different contexts.
Stanford professor Andrew Ng, writing for the Harvard Business Review, has a good rule of thumb for determining which types of jobs are ripe for automation: “If a typical person can do a mental task with less than one second of thought, we can probably automate it using AI either now or in the near future, ” he writes.
So, while there is great potential here to automate the sorts of tasks that require this Input A to Output B kind of model — including scanning security video for suspicious behavior, alerting drivers to pedestrians in the road, tagging hateful or abusive comments online, and so on — using AI to automate these tasks also requires a great deal of investment and work upfront.
As these technologies develop and become more universal, we probably will see humans losing jobs to computers (though not Star Wars-style sentient robots) in the near future. Jobs currently held by humans that require this same sort of Input A to Output B scenario are likely to be outsourced to computers, including jobs like receptionists, telemarketers, bookkeeping clerks, proofreaders, delivery couriers, and even retail salespeople.
Jobs AI can’t do better than humans
Lucky for us mere humans, there are a significant number of jobs that require more than a simple Input A to Output B calculation.
Many jobs require additional and very human qualities like communication, empathy, creativity, strategic thinking, questioning, and dreaming. Collectively, we often refer to these qualities as “soft skills, ” but don’t let the name fool you; these soft skills are going to be hard currency in the job market as AI and technology take over some of the jobs that can be performed without people.
In short, if you're concerned that your job might be one day outsourced to technology, the best thing you can do right now is work on your soft skills. Work on communication, strategic thinking, problem-solving, empathy, and creativity. It might eventually save your career from being taken over by robots, and even earn you a pay rise in the near future as well.
Bernard Marr is an internationally bestselling author, futurist, keynote speaker, and strategic advisor to companies and governments. He advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations on strategy, digital transformation and business performance. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK. He has authored 16 best-selling books, is a frequent contributor to the World Economic Forum and writes a regular column for Forbes. Every day Bernard actively engages his almost 2 million social media followers and shares content that reaches millions of readers.