More than ever before, businesses are finding new ways to integrate artificial intelligence into their everyday operations. For some occupations, the likelihood of automation appears small, whereas for others, it poses significant risks. In this latest article, we’ll be answering the question that’s been on everyone’s lips: “Will AI take our jobs?”.
AI is all around us. Whether we’re scrolling through Instagram, planning our journey with Google Maps, or streaming our favourite series on Netflix; many of the applications that we use every day are powered by artificial intelligence.
Broadly speaking, AI works by integrating vast data sets with sophisticated algorithms in order to carry out analyses, spot opportunities, and perform tasks — all with little to no human intervention.
Over time, AI systems evolve and become more and more adept at decision-making. The more that the AI discovers new data, the more refined its understanding becomes, leading to improved accuracy and more in-depth insights.
When an AI encounters fresh information, it adjusts its algorithms, fine-tuning its ability to recognise intricate patterns and anomalies. This continuous learning allows the AI to adjust to changing circumstances which further enhances its problem-solving capabilities.
When it comes to AI, there are two common types that you need to know about: strong AI and weak AI.
Here’s how to spot the difference…
You might be surprised to hear that strong AI, the supposed pinnacle of all artificial intelligence, does not actually exist yet.
Strong AI is the kind of artificial intelligence that we’ve only ever been exposed to in science fiction. It refers to fully conscious entities that possess advanced cognitive abilities, self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
While strong AI would be a groundbreaking accomplishment for computer science, the jury’s still out on whether it’s actually achievable. Some researchers believe that strong AI is very much a possibility, while others claim that it would be a tremendously challenging task, akin to discovering the structure of matter or explaining the origin of life.
Also known as narrow AI, weak AI is the kind of AI most people are familiar with. From voice-activated assistants to customer service bots and search engines, it is designed to carry out simple, pre-programmed tasks and problem-solving.
Unlike strong AI, weak AI does not possess human intelligence. However, with quality programming, it can process vast volumes of data with greater speed, efficiency and accuracy than any human ever could.
Generative AI refers to any AI that is capable of producing dynamic output and is best known for its ability to create content such as text, imagery, video and music, by learning patterns and structures from existing data.
Since generative AI tends to fall under the weak AI umbrella, it is still somewhat limited, given that it only focuses in on a specific area. However, it is already able to outperform humans in a narrow field and, with new technology advancements, it is predicted to become much more powerful and far more sophisticated.
In the last few years, we’ve already witnessed generative AI’s attempts at creating popular music and the results are pretty impressive…
Check out this mind-bending AI cover of ‘I will always love you’ in the style of Freddie Mercury. It does not disappoint!
One common type of generative AI is the LLM, or the ‘large language model’.
LLMs focus on language processing which makes them particularly adept at tasks such as text generation, translation, and answering questions.
Here are some of the most well known types of LLM:
Open AI’s GPT-4 which can produce essays, code, text summaries and stories
Anthrophic’s Claude GPT’s rival AI which can summarise long pieces of text while applying complex reasoning
BERT Google’s open-source language model which excels at text classification and analysis
Since LLMs are designed to understand and generate human-like text, they have been adopted by many business owners who have harnessed the power of chatbots to manage customer interactions. If you’ve recently tried to contact your bank or have reached out to a customer service team, it’s very likely that you’ve encountered an AI chatbot.
While the accuracy and reliability of these chatbots is very much dependent on their design, development and training, when skilfully executed, they can help businesses to improve response times, solve customer queries and even automate sales.
With growing possibilities and so many opportunities to automate tasks, it’s easy to see why businesses have latched onto the potential of generative AI. But who will this leave behind and how will they be affected?
It’s time for the all important question…
According to research carried out by leading investment bank Goldman Sachs, approximately 300 million jobs are likely to face exposure to AI. And, although they have suggested that this won’t necessarily lead to the replacement of all of these jobs, they do point out that up to 50% of the workload may become fully automated.
The idea of increased automation is likely to be a daunting prospect for many staff.
However, Goldman Sachs has reported that, while AI is likely to have a profound impact on the job market, most businesses will be only “partially exposed to automation”, using it as an additional tool to enhance pre-existing workflows rather than replacing them entirely.
The firm also highlights the fact that new AI advancements will lead to job opportunities for both existing employees and job seekers.
As AI technology becomes more heavily integrated into our workplaces, roles in programming, development, AI ethics regulation, and training will all be required to help us adapt to our new way of working.
When we talk about the types of jobs that AI will replace, we have to consider the nature of these roles and the feasibility of automation.
For example, some jobs require specialist knowledge and more nuanced decision-making. So, while a weak AI may be able to extract knowledge from the data and make decisions that appear logical, those decisions won’t be driven by the human judgement and contextual understanding that come with years of industry experience.
It is also suggested that people-centred jobs such as counselling, mentoring and social work, will also be harder to automate since they require empathy and complex social interactions — qualities that weak artificial intelligence does not currently possess.
What does the data tell us?
According to The Office For National Statistics, lower-skilled occupations are far more likely to be replaced by AI. Based on their findings, they have proposed that the three jobs at the highest risk of automation are:
In terms of demographics, it has been suggested that females are far more likely to be affected than males. This is because the jobs that are at the highest risk tend to be dominated by women.
While it’s difficult to say with certainty whether or not a job will remain AI-proof for years to come, ONS have listed the following three high-skilled occupations that they believe are most likely to avoid automation:
Although these roles are likely to provide a greater level of job security for employees, ONS have pointed out that location must also be taken into account.
Unsurprisingly, high-income areas such as London, Reading, Bristol, and Brighton are at a much lower risk since they offer a greater number of high-skilled job opportunities.
Want to know more? Take a look at the ONS automation map to discover which areas are most likely to be affected.
If you’re ready to embrace AI technologies but don’t want to disrupt the equilibrium of your business, there are a number of helpful steps you can take…
1. Identifying Value-Adding Opportunities
Begin by identifying areas within your business where AI can bring substantial value. Focus on tasks that are repetitive, data-intensive, and rule-based. These are prime candidates for automation.
2. Encourage Human Involvement
Once you’ve identified these areas, consider how human workers can complement AI integration. Design workflows that allow employees to work alongside AI systems, utilising their skills for complex decision-making, creativity, and interpersonal interactions.
3. Empowerment Through Learning
Invest in upskilling and training programs to prepare your workforce for AI integration. If you foster a culture of innovation, employees will feel empowered to contribute to AI strategies.
The important thing to note here is that, in order for your staff to get comfortable with AI, you’ve got to demonstrate both the opportunities that it presents and the ways in which they can work alongside it.
So, get to know your industry, check out your competitors and discover the latest tools for collaboration!
By becoming familiar with industry-specific technologies, you’ll be able to inspire your workforce and instil confidence in the potential of AI.
Remember: Successful AI implementation is not just about technological adaptation, it requires a cultural shift that embraces innovation while preserving the irreplaceable ‘human touch’.
We couldn’t write a piece about AI, without a little input from AI enthusiast and Newicon CEO, Steve O’Brien. So, before wrapping up our article, let's take a look at some of Steve’s hot takes on the topic!
To what extent do you believe that AI will threaten job security?
I'd argue that you can replace any role right now given enough cash.
For example, if someone wanted Newicon to replace a role within their organisation, we could do it — it's simply a matter of cost.
The cost of AI automation is vastly reducing, and when that cost becomes less than a salary (something that’s already happening for customer service and support staff), the last roles left will be AI developer/researcher and manual labour jobs such as carpentry, as these require human bodies and therefore robotics.
I'm sharpening up my carpentry skills!!
ONS have suggested that roles such as higher education teachers and medical professionals are less likely to be at risk. What are your thoughts on this?
Well, if we look at teaching, for example, I’d argue that GPT is the best teacher you could ask for, especially for coding.
Today I asked Chat GPT how the extension module system works in VS Code and it educated me on that structure faster than any Google search or any human could easily do (unless I was talking to the author directly).
When you reach out to a human author, they will often get grumpy trying to explain everything to you and tell you to read the 100 pages of documentation rather than bug them with questions!
I remember when I was first learning some deep coding, I had to tactfully space out my questions or exchange knowledge and disruption with tea rounds! Now we can relentlessly learn at a serious pace with an AI expert.
Do you have any useful advice for business owners or employees who are concerned about the prospect of AI automation?
Get involved! Learn, lean in, be excited. Look to leverage AI tools in your own organisation and approach with an open mind.
There is a huge opportunity to build on top of these tools. Just as smart phones created a wildly valuable app ecosystem, the same is now true building apps and services on top of these AI platforms.
We will start to see real useful AI first self service tools for legal, customer support, business support and a host of other things we can’t yet imagine. The limitation of business systems has often been unstructured data and huge effort goes into structuring and organisating data so machines can then analyse this. LLMs can effectively automate the human in these processes meaning much much more effective business systems and services. That sounds kinda dull but the implications are HUGE.
We need positive people with ideas and vision as our technical capability is outstripping our imagination! Foster creativity and imagine a positive future, try to run innovation workshops with your teams to collect ideas and quick wins so that we can improve and learn to co-exist with our AI overlords.
This is just the start. In the near term, we will see intelligent agents that can become team members and large, hugely valuable companies with a handful of people and an army of AIs.
Try to think exponentially, not linearly — change will be exponential as it historically has been.
If you’re ready to embrace AI or want to find ways to enhance your existing AI systems, we’re on hand to help. With innovative design and cutting-edge solutions, we can ensure that your AI helps to solve problems while supporting the needs of both your staff and customers.
(Researched and written by Maddie Zapletal)
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