Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the biggest inventions of mankind, and it’s going to change the way we live significantly without any doubt. However, it has been wildly argued that whether the change will be pro-human or antihuman, and one of the genuine concerns is about the future of work – Is AI going to take all of our jobs or create new opportunities for us? If the former, what should human being be doing then? And if the later, what will be those new opportunities?
In this article, we’ll analyze the current trend, and based on that making some predictions about how working will be like in the near future. Hopefully, this will give you some insights about the future of work and accordingly help you to choose your next occupation.
AI will help individuals to focus more on themselves
Automation replaces human workforce is not a new topic. Back in 19th century, a group of British textile workers, known as Luddites, destroyed textile machinery as a protest against the automation and the consequential job loss. However, the thrive of artificial intelligence brings it to a whole new level. Now, AI is not only capable of replacing blue-collar jobs but white-collar as well. Because of that, many have started to ask the question: Is there anything that can only be done by human but not machine?
Despite being reasonable, this line of thought is actually not very promising. Take “the ability to love”, one of the most famous answers to the question, for example, although it’s hard to teach robots what love is, some people are more than happy to marry a robot or software instead of a real person. As a matter of fact, some even claim that robots are a better partner than a flesh and blood human being. Such instances show that functionally speaking, even spouse, a role that heavily involves love, is totally replaceable by machine since the point is not that whether the robots have the ability to love or not; it’s whether human being can find emotional connection with an inanimate object or not (and it has been proven that at least some individuals can).
“The ability to create” is another feature often considered to be human-only. However, this is no longer the case. In October 2018, an algorithm-generated painting titled Portrait of Edmond de Belamy was sold at Christie's auction house in New York for $432,000, and it became the first AI artwork sold at an auction. This painting is created by an organization called Obvious using generative adversarial network (GAN). Interestingly, on the bottom right of the painting, where the signature of the artist should be, a mathematical formula instead of a human name is shown (see Figure 1), emphasizing the creator of this painting is an AI algorithm instead of a real person (more examples of AI-created painting and music: www.aiartonline.com).
As previously discussed, looking for a human capability that machine cannot substitute is surprisingly a very difficult task. With that being said, we believe there’s an obvious answer to it, and that is “being yourself”. To be more precise, even if AI is one day capable of perfectly representing you as a surrogate, it won’t change the fact that you’re a living individual with your own thoughts, feelings, memories and life experiences. And if you can find a job based on these things, you are likely to be safe from AI takeover.
But what occupations are based on “being yourself”? You may ask. Well, there are actually plenty. The following is a list we summarize:
Self-Media (e.g., YouTubers, bloggers, Internet celebrities etc.):
Today, more and more people share their lives and skills on social media, and it has gradually resulted in a series of jobs with sustainable income, such as YouTubers and bloggers. The topics shared by them are various, including music, drawing, DIY process, literature, science, education, mystery, religion, social skills, unboxing, animal videos, funny clips and so forth. As long as one has sufficient subscribers, he or she will have the chance to earn money through advertising revenue, commercial endorsement, affiliate marketing, etc.
Artistic workers (e.g., painters, novelists, writers, photographers, etc.):
Despite that AI has been capable of creating their own art (including painting, novel, music, etc.), there is no reason for all the artists and writers to worry in our opinion. An artwork serves as a medium for an individual to convey his or her personal thought and feeling. Therefore, AI may create its own art, but it’s definitely in no position to replace “yours”.
Opinion Providers or Leaders (e.g., journalists, reviewers, speakers etc.):
Key opinion leaders (KOLs) have become an important part of marketing since they have the power to greatly influence people’s decisions (sometimes even more effective than traditional celebrities). One reason behind such influence is that, unlike traditional celebrities, they are actually closer to us (i.e., just some normal people doing stuffs on the Internet) and thus make us easier to relate to them. Also, since KOLs are often just ordinary people, they are more likely to see things from the consumers’ angle, accordingly rendering their recommendations or suggestions more valuable than those from a company or traditional celebrity. And as one can expect, such sense of “intimacy” can hardly be provided, if possible, by a non-human entity.
Note that the occupation is strongly fueled by social media. Many KOLs are actually a YouTuber, blogger and so on.
AI will change the nature of companies
In the last paragraph, we talked about how AI may prompt the jobs that encourage people to be themselves, but it doesn’t mean that we believe AI will eradicate the traditional form of business in the near future. With that being said, it’s almost certain that the nature of companies will be significantly altered by this technology, and the following are some major changes that we think AI will induce:
AI will shrink the size of a business:
With the development of artificial intelligence, a lot of AI-powered tools have been released on the Internet for free or provided as a service / product to the general public with an affordable price. For instance, the website, remove.bg, allows one to easily erase the background of an image. All you have to do is to upload your photo and wait for a few seconds. That’s it! The algorithm will then detect the people inside the image and remove everything else all by itself.
Another example is known as Logopony, which is a website that uses AI to generate a logo for you automatically. Just simply enter your company name and make some easy selections, a series of customized logos will soon be presented in front you.
These tools or services conspicuously simplify a process that originally takes hours to complete, and therefore giving a single individual more time to handle other work. In addition, since these tools are fairly easy to use, an individual no longer need to learn a lot of things before actually doing the job, and that widening what a single individual is capable of. All of these point to one conclusion, that is, the future companies will require less workers to achieve the same productivity than today companies. In other words, these powerful and easy-to-use AI tools will lessen the number of staff in an enterprise to a notably small amount. As for how small an enterprise will be, that depends on how capable these AI are going to become.
AI will free people from working at a certain time / location:
The use of AI (along with the technologies such as 5G, AR and VR, etc.) can also help an individual to work anywhere and anytime they want. For example, with a 5G network and a smooth AI translator, you will be able to connect with your foreign clients on the other side of the world without actually presenting there. All the conversations will be translated in real time so there won’t be any language barrier. And if necessary, augmented or virtual reality is always within your reach, enabling you to better illustrate yourself to your clients.
Another use of AI is about chatbots and virtual assistants. Once such technology becomes mature enough, it’ll be possible for one to build a proxy that can handling some simple tasks during the time when you don’t feel like to work. It can also help you to organize your schedule, allowing you to better manage the progress of your project(s), finding a perfect time in a day for you to work, and as a result achieving a better work-life balance.
More people will become freelancers:
If you can work on your own, and you don’t have to go to a certain place at a certain time for work, then why bother founding or joining a company? As a matter of fact, the population of freelancing has been steadily growing in the pass few years (see Figure 2). With the help of AI, 5G, AR and VR, we believe the trend will only go stronger and faster in the future.
The skills required for the future of work
In our opinion, the thrive of artificial intelligence will make the future vocations freer, more independent and more individual-oriented. Correspondingly, one will need to have certain skills in order to better prosper in such environment. In the text below we enumerate several things that a person should have in order to face the change.
The ability to self-regulate:
If the current tendency continues, we should anticipate that more people will quite working in a traditional way (i.e., going to work at a certain location at certain time, 5 days per week) and embrace a freelancer-like lifestyle. However, such lifestyle does require one to be highly self-regulated since you’re no longer supervised by anyone. Just remember, although freelancing grants you freedom to choose where, when and what you want to do, it’s still a job in essence. And in order to get your job done, some planning and scheduling are still imperative.
The ability to cooperate with others remotely:
Unlike face-to-face communication in which one can interact with other directly, remote conversing is more challenging and requires one to have advanced communicating skill to articulate their outlooks and avoid misunderstanding. And as we can see, such skills should become necessary in the future workplace since remote meetings may become more and more frequent and unavoidable.
Knowledge of marketing:
One of the biggest challenges of being a freelancer is to find people who are willing to pay you money. And since freelancing may become the majority in the future, knowing how to promote yourself is undoubtedly one of the most critical capabilities that an individual should have.
Common sense on cybersecurity:
Data has become one of the most important assets for an enterprise. Also, considering the volume of data today, storing data on the cloud instead of our personal devices is an inevitable trend. Because of that, knowing how to protect these valuable assets will become an indispensable skill for every individual and company.
Besides, the privacy of customers’ data is another burning issue remaining to be solved, we have deeper discussion on this topic in another article (click here to read it if you’re interested).
Most importantly, find out where your passion is!
As we’ve claimed before, in contrast with making human being feel worthless, we believe AI will actually give us the opportunity to focus on what we’re truly passionate about. Of course, it does not mean that artificial intelligence is utterly threat-free. However, the future of work should not be the area where AI really threaten mankind (we shall enlarge on this topic in another article).
To us, finding a human-only characteristic which machine cannot substitute is not a reasonable strategy for dealing with the possible AI takeover. Instead, we should be looking for areas where AI cannot menace human even if AI is totally capable of replacing us. And as we’ve discussed before, there are in fact plenty of such areas! In conclusion, although artificial intelligence may endanger mankind in some way, when it comes to the future of work, we believe our tomorrow is still very promising!
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