Is Elon right? Will AI take our jobs?
It’s the question that keeps being asked, will AI replace humans?
It’s such a big question that Elon Musk weighed in during his interview with Rishi Sunak. There’s truth behind the fear of AI taking over from humans. But at the same time, the fundamental need for human connection and critical thinking means AI won’t take over all jobs.
Instead we need to focus on using AI in the right way to allow humans to focus on what they do best, connecting, empathising and critical thinking.
The rise of AI
Not a day goes by without AI cropping up in a conversation. If you listen to the media it’s everywhere and it’s about to take over. Now that’s slightly extreme. But there’s no denying the uprising of AI.
AI has existed in various forms for a while now - Alexa, facial recognition, Chatbots, are just a few ways that it’s used in real life right now. But there’s an increasing worry about the very real capabilities AI brings, and its potential to replace humans.
Not helped by Elon Musk’s recent comments at the AI Safety Summit, “I think we are seeing the most disruptive force in history; we will have something that for the first time is smarter than the smartest human…There will come a point where no job is needed”.
Thanks, Elon. The perfect quote to create panic.
But is there any truth behind his statement? Should we be worried about AIs role in the workplace?
Will AI replace humans?
There isn’t a clear cut answer. Frustratingly, the answer it depends has never been more apt. The main variable is the industry you’re in. Tradespeople are unlikely to be impacted, but professional services…well that could see a significant impact. A new study has predicted that more than 40% of Professional Services work could be automated through AI.
That’s not to say that 40% of jobs will be cut, but it will cause a ripple effect throughout the sector. It’s worth remembering that figure won’t be achieved overnight, it’ll be a gradual transition which will see job roles shift and adjust over a period of potentially years.
It’s clear that there will be an impact. It’s clear that there will be an element of replacing humans. But the scale and timeline are still very unclear.
AI’s role in Professional Services
When it comes to repetitive tasks there’s no beating AI in terms of efficiency. AI can complete 100x of what a person can. In Professional Services there are a number of areas that AI can streamline. And, if we’re being honest, who wouldn’t love to do away with the mundane, repetitive tasks in their job role.
But the basis of Professional Services is relationships. The human to human element that brings connection, empathy, and trust. If we’ve learned anything over the last few years it’s that people buy from people.
There are a few flaws with the idea that AI will take over Professional Services.
1. AI has to pull the information from somewhere, which means it needs to be created as a source before AI can reproduce it…which means humans are the original source.
2. While AI can teach itself over a period of time there has to be a direction in the first place…which needs to come from humans.
3. We don’t want to engage with a robot. So much of our communication is done through tone, body language and other non verbal cues, that while there are times AI can do the job. If all we had to work with was a robot or chatbot, we’d miss the basics of human interaction - humour, empathy, camaraderie, collaboration.
There are hundreds of lawyers, recruiters, accountants and consultants who are all equally qualified and just as technically competent as each other. So what makes one person choose one professional and another person pick someone else? It’s not the quality of their advice or their work, it’s the personal connection they form.
And that can’t be replaced by AI.
The pitfalls of AI
It’s easy to focus on the positives of AI. The time it’ll free up, the efficiencies it’ll create. But what are the downsides? What do we need to be mindful of?
As a leader, my primary concern is around the pipeline for future senior leaders. When we talk about creating efficiencies and automating mundane, repetitive tasks, what we’re really talking about is doing away with lower level jobs.
One article I read cited the need for fewer graduates as a result of AI as a good thing. But to me, it’s the opposite.
If we reduce the number of graduates, or junior positions then we’re reducing the future talent pool. Because doing the more repetitive work or the more basic tasks is how we gain a good foundation to progress from. Companies need to be cautious about how many junior roles they are replaced with technology, or 10-years down the line they might be kicking themselves.
What happens now
It’s easy to get swept up in AI fever. But the truth is that we all need to take a moment.
Yes, AI will change work as we know it, but not right now. That takes time, and for that to happen we all need to get under the skin of AI and understand the best way to use it within business. Because until we start to harness the power of AI, and realise that humans are in control of it, there’s going to be a feeling of fear that surrounds it.
In those instances, knowledge is power. Instead of feeling threatened, go out and educate yourself, play around with AI tools, put yourself in a position of knowledge. That way you can help to drive the change, rather than be swept up in the aftermath.
Will AI take our jobs? Not immediately no. In fact, it could be so slow that we don’t even realise the shift. Since the industrial revolution technology has usurped humans, but we still have jobs. They might look different to previous roles, but 60% of the jobs we have today didn’t exist 80 years ago.
Instead of cowering from AI, we need to take charge. We need to educate ourselves and we need to lead the way. Only then will we remember that while AI is a super tool and will revolutionise the workplace, it still needs humans to tell it what to do. To do the strategy, the thinking, the critical analysis.
Not only that, but we need the human side of work. We want to work with real people, not chatbots. We want to create with humans. We want to talk to humans. We want to connect with humans. While the need for human connection exists, AI won’t take our jobs.
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