Three Job Security Strategies for the AI Revolution

While Elon Musk may be worried about AI turning to evil, the general population's concern about AI often comes down to something a lot more practical and everyday -- what will it mean for the future of my job or my career. What will it mean for my ability to support myself and my family?

Will artificial intelligence and machine learning automate my job functions? Will my customer service job be taken over by a bot? Will my job as a physician be eliminated as AI recognizes disease from images or sounds? Will my job as a financial analyst disappear as clients get better advice from an AI?

These questions go to our own sense of security as members of society. They are scary. And we may not feel so reassured when thought leaders talk about jobs being automated but don't offer ideas about alternative jobs.

(Image: Vicky_81/iStockphoto)

(Image: Vicky_81/iStockphoto)

Still, any student of history can see that such market changes don't generally mean catastrophe for humanity or the workforce.

"In the industrial revolution we didn't end up with 40% unemployment," said SAS CTO Oliver Schabenberger, in an interview with AllAnalytics. "A lot of jobs were created in the process. [For the AI revolution] we haven’t seen those jobs yet."

But there are some clues about what skills you should be developing.

Strategy 1: Be an AI Programmer

"Skill sets are changing in the world of AI," Schabenberger said. "You go from building those machine learning pipelines to building a deep neural network pipeline. That's a different skill set. It's almost like part of the data scientist moves into a new skill called the AI programmer. We are really going to have a shortage of those."

Strategy 2: Add Smart Machine Skills to Your Existing Professional Skills

It really comes down to a personal choice on what you want to do, however, according to Tom Davenport, a senior advisor to Deloitte Analytics and author of the book Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines. He told AllAnalytics in an interview that to compete in the future workforce each person has to decide whether they want to work closely with smart machines or not.

Those who want to work with smart machines have to learn two things. First, they must learn the same things they've always learned about their chosen field. Get their MBA or their medical degree. Then they must also learn how to use smart machines to add value to or augment those professional skill sets.

If they learn those two things, they will enjoy a promising career, according to Davenport.

"Those jobs tend to pay pretty well," he said.

Strategy 3: Choose a Profession Unlikely to be Automated

Then there is the set of jobs that are unlikely to be automated. These jobs tend to be in creative fields or involve dealing one-on-one with people.

"The other option is to choose a job unlikely to be done by machines such as nursing, writing for movies or TV, or writing feature stories," Davenport said. "Those jobs are either very competitive or don't pay very well. But they will be around, and you will still have a job."

What about you? Are you adding any new skills to get ready for the AI revolution? What are you learning now? Tell us in the comments. 

Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps, Informationweek

Jessica Davis has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology at titles including IDG's Infoworld, Ziff Davis Enterprise's eWeek and Channel Insider, and Penton Technology's MSPmentor. She's passionate about the practical use of business intelligence, predictive analytics, and big data for smarter business and a better world. In her spare time she enjoys playing Minecraft and other video games with her sons. She's also a student and performer of improvisational comedy. Follow her on Twitter: @jessicadavis.

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  • 11/9/2017 9:24:10 AM

Are we going to have a choice?
Technology, it is certain, helps the man in the deepening of his capacities and competences.
But I think we should not become too dependent and keep some distance with these robots.
You have to know how to manage at best without their uses because we are not safe from a breakdown ...
The thinking heads, it's us above all.

Re: Being an AI programmer
  • 10/25/2017 10:56:09 AM

"I'm not sure if there are any jobs that can't one day be automated."

I recently read a little article about the robots that build robots.  When the robots start designing robots then I tend to agree that long term there won't be any "job" that can't be automated.  There may be some supervisory tasks or positions that we'll want a human touch on, but physical work and labor will be coved by machines eventually if we allow it.


Re: Being an AI programmer
  • 10/25/2017 9:38:58 AM

@Seth: Uh-oh. Virtual juries. That sure doesn't strike me as palatable. I fear the activist judge who would equate true AI with a human being for the purposes of gathering a "jury of one's peers".

Re: automation
  • 10/25/2017 9:36:10 AM

Considering we already do this in some areas warning of use of, say, nuts -- and forbidding people at times in some areas to bring in peanut-containing food -- what you suggest isn't that much of a stretch of the imagination.

It might be a good idea anyway to backtrack on Wi-Fi and minimize its use in favor of Ethernet cables. More secure and reliable that way.

Re: Being an AI programmer
  • 10/24/2017 11:42:11 PM

@Ariella - I agree the change may happen more slowly that many of the technology optimists think. (Weren't we all supposed to be driving electric cars by now? Or riding the trains?)

At the same time I also fear the coming changes will be more disruptive than the ones we can look back on.

Re: Being an AI programmer
  • 10/24/2017 3:28:53 PM

I'm not sure if there are any jobs that can't one day be automated. (Maybe not in our life time)  It's really just a matter if it is worth it to automate them.  A.I. has already been developed to predict the outcome of trial verdects and has been accurate in four out of five caes.  

Re: Being an AI programmer
  • 10/24/2017 2:08:15 PM

@Ariella: Yeah, we won't really have to worry big time about AI until a little bit before the robots are taking the jobs of AI specialists. ;)

Re: Being an AI programmer
  • 10/24/2017 9:14:33 AM

@PC I share your concern. It's true that this won't happen all that quickly, so people have some years to plan to train for careers that will still have a place in the automated economy. But for those who are already in the job and have been there for a while, it is much harder to shift gears and retrain and start all over again at entry level, which entails a pay cut and likely lost employment time.

Re: automation
  • 10/24/2017 9:01:58 AM

One thing I suspect we'll see develop is a new generation of Luddites but they will have things like WiFi sensitivity to back them up.  I think of walking into a convenience store and seeing the warning "Microwave in use".  Will we see communities developed to prevent the machines from accidently having adverse effects on humans?  We've seen issues with high tension power lines, WiFi, cell towers, etc.  I suspect we'll see some of these pop up in cities where there is no escape from the machines.  

Re: Being an AI programmer
  • 10/23/2017 9:44:54 PM

@Ariella -

$300k for an AI expert is phenomenal. And,as we've seen numerous times before, I fully expect the economic changes we're headed for will create new and interesting jobs.

My concern is that the number of new jobs may be significantly less than the number of displaced workers. What on earth are a million truck drivers going to be doing when self-driving trucks are everywhere?

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