This post is contributed by the President and Co-founder of recruitment firm AiMYJOBS, Andrew Chan. Any extracts should be attributed to the author. 1 October 2019.
When we think about Artificial Intelligence (AI), we think about Terminator or iRobot, where automated bots gain sentience and lead an uprising against humankind. It is seemingly ironic that today, in an age of rapid digitisation where we live alongside technology in an almost inseparable way, we fear that technology would eventually catch up with humankind and ultimately displace us.
Studies have shown that employees from the generation before us (Gen Y) express sentiments of scepticism and apprehension towards automation and new technologies, with a growing fear of displacement. However, we often forget the value of human work. In terms of higher-level skills such as creativity, people skills or innovation, for instance, robots could never replace humans. Artificial technology as such does not risk replacing nor displacing the human workforce but rather complements and accentuates it.
Human Skills are Imperative
Particularly with the growing presence of automated works, human skills have become all the more imperative for organisational functions today.
At the heart of every flourishing organisation is a diverse and cohesive team of individuals, with the usual identifiers like synergy, collaboration and teamwork. Whether internally or externally, every industry involves human interaction and judgement, which robots could never replicate. At least not for now.
Is the Threat to Jobs an Exaggerated Claim?
As Ramayya Krishnan, Dean of Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University underlines, a job is essentially “a role that consists of a bundle of tasks”. Automation thus seeks to eradicate unnecessary mundane tasks in a job, allowing more room for new tasks and undiscovered work scopes.
Upgraded Job Creation in the Human Workforce
What artificial intelligence does instead is create higher-level jobs that boost the productivity of and increase the efficacy of mundane work, so that more resources can be invested in honing and developing their existing pool of workers.
For instance, the creation of a bot would require innovative thought and meticulous crafting of perfect algorithms, which would, by extension, demand higher skills and expertise from the technician.
Engineers will no longer be doing data entry but are required to upgrade their skillsets to maintain and further develop these new AI systems.
As such, it could be said that automated bots have replaced our jobs, but it is precisely because of the substitution of these monotonous jobs that new job titles and opportunities arise to create, facilitate and maintain new technologies.
Apart from that, mundane tasks such as sieving through job applications to find suitably skilled candidates for an interview can be sharpened and shortened with the reduction of human error.
Particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises where time and cost efficiency is the direct determinant of its survival and success, there is little room for human error. Due to limited human resource, there is also a need for every employee to be a jack of all trades and simultaneously a master of all.
Shift in Mindset
As these technological shifts and advancements grow in precedence, the mindsets of both employers and employees alike must also seek to evolve alongside the ever-changing tides of the industry.
To hone greater talents, organisations should be more receptive to the idea of retraining and promoting lifelong learning for their workers to increase their bandwidth in dealing with a wider scope of challenges and tasks.
The future of artificial intelligence involves streamlining job processes and is still largely in its infancy. Based on observations of market trends recruitment patterns, it would likely take us up to five years before truly effective artificial intelligence tools can be generated and mass-produced for organisational use. We still have time.