Should We Be Afraid of Artificial Intelligence?

Economists worry about the impact that artificial intelligence (AI) technology could have as it begins to displace human employees, especially those in entry-level jobs such as data entry, customer service or retail. Employees in these jobs, or even in jobs requiring slightly more skills, face an uncertain future. In a recent essay in the Harvard Business Review magazine Ascend, LML External Fellow Hyejin Youn takes a look at how people can prepare to do well in the coming AI era. Her advice is to embrace the technology, not run from it, because as AI eliminates many jobs, it will also create many others for people who learn to work with the machines.

As she puts it, “Instead of trying to compete against machines, we should collaborate with them…. The key is to find new ways of interacting with machines by viewing AI as an extension of your own skills. Become proactive, even to the point of enjoying the changes brought about by advanced technology rather than feeling victimized by it.”

Youn goes on to explore three specific ideas for preparing for our future with AI:

1. Move to a Tech-Forward City

If you’re fresh out of college and just launching your career, consider moving to an urban area for better opportunities to gain experience in working with AI. In research Youn conducted with several colleagues, she found that large cities, particularly those that are academic and research hubs, may be the most susceptible to technological changes in the workplace. Yet, those same urban areas will likely offer the greatest concentration of opportunities for professionals to partner with technology.

2. Develop New Relevant Skills

Lifelong learning and re-skilling are more important now in the “age of automation” than in any other time period. While some forward-looking employers are committed to re-skilling their workers—for example, Amazon recently announced it would spend $700 million to retrain 100,000 workers—professionals, too, must do their part. For the new workforce entrant, this means starting early to develop a sense of what’s going on outside their particular company or industry so they can stay relevant within a changing workforce.

3. Create Value Through Human-plus-Machine Collaboration

As machines become more advanced and capable, even jobs in the knowledge sector currently dominated by humans will be impacted. How does one continue to remain relevant? Young professionals at the entry level can find ways to utilize AI and technology to augment their expertise in areas such as design, data search, and visualization, and even presentation skills, such as Microsoft’s Presenter Coach. Differentiate yourself from others who are reticent to adopt new technology — especially machines that are increasingly capable of mimicking human intelligence with greater robustness.

Looking ahead, Youn writes, there will always be friction between humans and machines. This is natural as the workplace is becoming a laboratory in which AI’s uses are being tested. Humans need to adapt to using AI as a sophisticated tool – whether it’s a physician using AI to diagnose their patients or a recruiter using AI to create the most compelling job postings. Embracing this friction is key as it will showcase your attitude and your skills.

Read the entire essay on the Ascend website.

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