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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No threat on the long term
  • 1/3/2018 3:05:00 AM

Very interesting subject on which I have often been dabating. I also think that jobs will evolve according to the new technologies. AI can be a threat on the short time for jobs that are getting automated, but on the long term we will adapt and create new needs and jobs. 

Re: automation
  • 11/28/2017 11:34:41 PM

@Ariella - why is it that Coursera hasn't done better?

Part of it might be that what I learn at Coursera, while just as helpful in my actual work, doesn't carry the luster of an accredited college. How can we level the playing field so that it's the knowledge that matters, not some accreditation?

And, on the other hand, how do we judge which online or non-traditional programs are worth time and money?

Re: automation
  • 11/28/2017 12:48:19 PM

@PC We certainly can do with some innovative approaches to education. Not all of them are proving successful, though. I spoke with one of the administrators at the data science school. He said, one ht one hand, online clurses are th eonly way to really scale in a significant way (and they do offer online instruction), but on the other hand, Coursera has not proven to work well.

Re: automation
  • 11/28/2017 11:09:42 AM

@Ariella - Naming a school ď42Ē is an indicator that itís not like most colleges.

Iím generally a fan of trying different approaches, as our current system for higher education, while successful, seems expensive and lacking variety.

Re: automation
  • 11/28/2017 9:21:18 AM

@PC that reminds me of the NYC Data Science Academy. I wrote about its founder and popped into the school once for a visit. While it is far from free, it also has a very rigorous bootcamp that effectively filters out the students who can't hack it. Also here's a fun fact about 42; that's the max number of students they are allowed to have  physicallyin the school, acording to what the administrator told me. 

Re: automation
  • 11/28/2017 12:06:33 AM

@Lyndon - The most interesting thing in the article that you linked was a coding school called 42.

It's an unconventional school. No traditional criteria for admission ( grades, test scores, knowing certain programming languages etc.) Instead you have to survive a coding boot-camp.

Oh and it's free.

Re: choix
  • 11/27/2017 11:35:19 PM

How should we "keep some distance" from our robots?

If cell phones are any indication, and I think they are; we won't see much distance between people and their robots in the not-too-distant future.

Re: automation
  • 11/27/2017 10:39:02 PM

Ariella writes: "It's nice to be optimistic, but we really should be facing possible downsides and getting ready for them."

And relevant to this is a recent Huffington Post article:

Robots Are Coming For Our Jobs. Here Are 5 Ways To Prepare.

Recommendation #3 seems basically the same as Jessica's #1. Other than that, these seem interesting pieces of advice coming at the challenge from different directions.


  • 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.


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