Will AI Destroy Your Job? Yes, but No

I’ave been seeing a lot in the news lately about how artificial intelligence will destroy the job market as we know it.

This is true, but I don’t think our kids need to worry.

As the mother of three boys (14, 10, and 3), I’ve heard many times the question of why they’re learning things in school that they’ll never use in real life.

The secret, I tell them, the most important thing you can learn in school – is how to learn. How to learn quickly, learn different subjects, and learn things you don’t necessarily like. Or find interesting. In your lifetime, the world will change beneath your feet. If you’re not ready to adapt and learn, you will be crushed by the force of change.

It’s those who are afraid and resistant that will be the ones left behind.

On the other hand, it’s people who embrace change, learn about it, learn from it who will find something new to do. Lets explore more.

85% Of The Jobs of 2030 Aren’t Created Yet

Adults are always asking kids what they’ll do when they grow up. Kids usually respond with a job they’re familiar with – teacher, police officer, fire fighter, astronaught, etc. But what if we’re asking the wrong question? After all, according to Dell Technologies Realize 2030 report, 85% of the jobs of 2030 – a mere 12 years from now – don’t yet exist.

A recent Oxford study shows job losses of up to 47% across the developed world in the next 25 years. And according to Art Bilger, a venture capitalist and board member at theOxford University business school, the easiest jobs to automate will be the so-called “white collar” jobs. Like lawyers – apparently artificial intelligence makes better lawyers than human ones.  And accounting – by 2020, most accounting tasks will be automated. Good thing I decided to go into IT as a career, rather than Accounting. 

In twelve years my oldest son will be 26, middle son 22 and my little guy only 15. What kinds of jobs are in their futures? I don’t know, but that fact doesn’t scare me.

 Even professionals at the MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Next conference admit that they don’t really know the impact that the AI revolution will have on the US economy.  So any articles you might read that proclaim gloom and doom don’t really know what they’re talking about.

In fact, an Asian study shows that although some workers are left behind, more new jobs are created by countervailing forces created by the needs of the new technology. And Forbes speculates that AI might create more work opportunities – with fewer hours and greater safety than ever before.

AI – Like Technologies Before It – Increases The Pie

Think about the jobs that exist today that didn’t exist twenty years ago. I can think of many off the top of my head – leaders of digital strategy, website developers (many of them, anyway), social media strategists, and the like. All the companies that have been born and grew since then – like Amazon (started in 1994) and Google (in 1998).

There have been other huge technology revolutions in the past. The industrial revolution. The assembly line. The invention of the car, and the airplane. The advent of computers. And make no mistake, AI could be another force like those. But every time someone has predicted the end of jobs – like computers taking away everyones job – new jobs have been born.

Think back to 150 years ago. Back then, most people in America were farmers. There was no internet, no cars, no planes, no computers. There were no assembly lines. But what had occurred was the industrial revolution. Textiles alone created many of those jobs. Standard of living increased for many around the world, and it was the start of sustained income and population growth.

When cars were invented, there was an industry destroyed – horses. Check out this really interesting article on the death of the horse industry, and some perspective on just how reliant people in the 1800’s were on horses. There were over 600k horse-related jobs destroyed, but millions of car-related jobs created.

That’s what increasing the pie is about. Jobs are destroyed, yes. And that can be scary. But new, different, interesting jobs are created at the same time.

Gain Perspective From The Past

I’ve been working full time since I was 18, in 1998. Back then, many of the jobs that are routine and commonplace now didn’t exist. Sure, we had email and websites (I’m not quite that old), but I do remember co-workers at the time telling me of times when those weren’t a thing. Those folks didn’t have an internal website with documentation. Instead they used “the rack” that had all the paper documentation and had to be periodically updated with new printouts.

There were huge filing cabinets filled to the brim with paper. My coworkers and I looked for the  applications for car insurance, for example, filed in the paper bins by last name. When a customer called to ask about their application, we had to go to the filing cabinet and find it.

During big changes at work, I’ve met so many people who who fear the coming shift will replace them. They’re scared, and so resist change at all costs. They talk about how it will never work. People refuse to be trained or certified in the new way of doing things, and generally go down kicking and screaming.

But guess who is in high demand? The people who embrace the change. Those who figured out how the new technology, process, or way of working works and can help guide others through the changes. Which workers are in low demand and likely to be laid off? The ones who dug in their heels, refused to learn the new things, and generally resisted and complained until no one cared anymore.

Let’s take a tour around the corporate office of the 1950’s compared with today to see just how much things have changed. 

No email, computers, or technology, really. Most large companies didn’t have computers as we think of them, because the ENIAC had just been invented, but they may have employed human computers like in the movie Hidden Figures. There would be filing cabinet upon filing cabinet FILLED with paper – and plenty of people needed to file the paper. A large mailroom to handle all the mail, with lots of people working there too. Many secretaries (all female), including those in secretary pools. Corporate men (all men) who got to smoke and drink at work.  “Tube men”, whose job it was to manage the pneumatic mail tubes. Yes, there was a whole industry around pneumatic tubes. Pneumatic tubes have indeed gone the way of the dodo, unlike what Wired predicted in that linked article from 1994.

How Do You Stay Relevant?

You could wait for the government to save you. Malcolm Gladwell suggests to “Be good at the things that the machine is not.”

But the bottom line is that you always need to embrace change, the unknown, and learning new things. Grow your skills, both inside and outside of work. Heck, starting this website was a great way for me to learn new skills I don’t get chance to day-to-day. I learn things like social media management, writing, marketing, financial management, in-depth research of topics. As an IT project manager, I don’t often need to do those things. But as a website owner, I most certainly do.

Learning is the real unsung hero of the side hustle. Even though the skills I mentioned above aren’t something I get chance to practice often at work, they most certainly improve my day job. Especially some of the design work I’ve done as part of this site – I’ve been able to really improve my presentations and graphics.

So embrace change. Learn something new inside your job – and outside of it. Keep up to date on happenings in your industry, and outside of it. The next big, revolutionary change will happen – but you’ll be ready for it. And if you can teach your kids those same lessons, they’ll be ready too.

I Want To Hear From You!

What have been the changes in the workforce since you’ve started working? Ever hear interesting stories of the past from coworkers? Have you read any scary headlines about how AI will lead to the death of jobs? Let me know in the comments!

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6 thoughts on “Will AI Destroy Your Job? Yes, but No”

  1. Great post. AI will “destroy” certain jobs for sure, but as you note it will also create jobs and opportunities. That’s the cycle of progress.

    The worrisome thing about this cycle as it continues is that it will require highly educated people more and more over time to succeed in it. So there’s a risk of a larger divide being created between those who get a good education, and those who don’t. The latter will have fewer and fewer prospects for a good livelihood.

  2. The things that were status symbols when I started work, being issued a pager or getting a fax almost do not exist anymore. There was no email, no internet and the computers I wrote software for were mysteries to most of my fellow workers. The phones rang constantly instead of rarely ever. It was fun being the first generation to ride the technology wave and to be an early adopter of artificial intelligence modeling in my field.

    1. chiefmomofficer

      I relate to this-laptops were a huge status symbol when I started working, and now everyone has one.

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