Industry dialogue about artificial intelligence and the new services featuring it are all well and good. Seriously, though, what does it mean for my job? AppZen CEO and co-founder Anant Kale doesn’t have all the answers, but offers a compelling case for why, as a general statement, the humans will be alright.

Gartner predicts that artificial intelligence will create 2.3 million jobs by 2020 while eliminating 1.8 million positions in other sectors at the same time. According to Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute, four out of five companies have already seen jobs created as a response to their AI initiatives.

In other words, the future of human employment and how it interacts with robot workers are largely unknown, but still worthy of optimism. With AI forecast to drive a net gain of 500,000 new jobs in the next three years, the outlook for the impact of automation on jobs is not as bleak as many originally feared.

The Evolution of Work

Work is constantly changing – it’s no longer a place we go, but rather a thing we do. What’s key to remember is that we’ve been at similar crossroads many times before and we’ve adapted, improved and moved on. As with the Industrial Revolution, when workers moved from the fields to the factory floor, many workers today believe innovation will render them obsolete.

But if history is our guide, transformative technology like AI creates more jobs because it opens up new, previously unimagined sectors of the workforce.

It’s nothing new to say that AI automation makes businesses faster, more efficient and more productive. The optimist’s view is that, rather than doing away with human labor, this efficiency actually lowers prices and increases demand, which has an added effect of creating the need for even more workers.

Automation Doesn’t Make Humans Obsolete

The notion that AI will lead to job replacement is understandable but improbable. People need to design the programs and the machines. Humans need to answer customer service questions about how the machine is working (or not working). Machine learning software engineers, data scientists and big data engineers are emerging as some of the most sought-after job roles, but human support infrastructures will grow as well.

Anant Kale, AppZen
Anant Kale, AppZen co-founder and chief executive officer

Humans complement the tasks performed by cognitive technology, ensuring that the work of machines is effective and constantly refined. Algorithms need to be trained, manually fed with data, correctly tagged and labeled. They need a built-in feedback loop. Customer service chatbots, as an example, need to be trained to show compassion and detect the complexities and subtleties of human communication, such as sarcasm. We’ll therefore likely see “ethics compliance manager” roles growing in tandem with the rise of AI. These jobs may replace traditional blue-collar workers in manufacturing and other professions but will also include a highly specialized and skilled workforce.

Humans are critical in bridging the gap between the technology and the business, and aligning the data to the decision-making process. Accenture’s global study categorizes these AI-driven roles into three areas: Trainers, Explainers and Sustainers. In the case of AppZen, our proprietary technology algorithm checks for fraud and noncompliance by using thousands of internal and external data sources to give context and understanding to each expense. But human auditors are still required to look into the expenses that have been flagged as high risk. Employees remain a vital part of the process, understanding the best path forward in addressing the problems — whether returning expenses to the employee, alerting the manager, reporting to ethics and so forth.

As was the case with the evolution of mobile technology, AI’s evolution will not be limited to tech geeks plugging away in a back room. We will soon see it infiltrate every vertical sector — healthcare, retail, manufacturing, travel — and across every business unit, from tech roles to finance to sales. AI will transform every data-intensive process, regardless of subject matter, touching a majority of job functions on some level and in some form.

In the near future, almost every job applicant will need a basic knowledge of AI and how it will impact his or her role in the marketplace.

How AI Will Define New Industries

The Internet brought about the rise of Amazon, Google, Netflix and countless others, just as mobile paved the way for Facebook, Nokia and Instagram. GPS technology and the rise in the gig economy has allowed for Uber and Airbnb, with connected devices and the Internet of Things giving rise to successful enterprises like Nest, Hive and Alexa. Currently AI is inexorably moving into our offices, but the big question remains: When will this migration lead to a rise in a new set of industries borne out of the AI revolution? What new industries will emerge? The only thing we know today is that it will happen.

The Impacts On Education

Sixty-five percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately hold jobs that don’t yet exist, according to LinkedIn’s 2017 U.S. Emerging Jobs Report. This sends a strong message that society needs to look at reforming education beyond the traditions of reading, writing and arithmetic, and toward fostering skills that complement machines, rather than competing with them. The LinkedIn report also suggests there are more than 1,600 open roles for machine learning engineers currently in the United States. There is certainly a strong case for a positive trajectory of employment growth stemming from AI.

Closing Thoughts

AI encompasses anything from robots to chatbots to software automation. But regardless of its form, the greatest benefit will be AI augmentation, which requires a combination of both human and artificial intelligence, where both complement and ameliorate each other.

Disruption and innovation are the constants. Nothing is static; there is no being, only becoming. AI, in all its forms, will be the “OS” to take us forward into the future, paving the way for a new normal in the way we work, communicate and learn.

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