Cold embrace: How not to lose your job to AI

In our 2024 AI in Business survey, we found that a majority of our respondents, over 55 percent said that their jobs had not been impacted by AI. However, another majority, again over 52 percent, said that they were concerned that their roles at their employer could be “fully automated” by the emerging technology.

This tracks with the international and local situation around generative AI, the latest technology to emerge from the likes of OpenAI. Systems like ChatGPT, Google Gemini and others are now believed to make the companies that sell them vast amounts of money – in the high billions of dollars – but report after report stipulates that the technology will have major repercussions for the global workforce.

Repercussions that will only be felt in full in the near future.

For example, the IMF detailed at the beginning of the year that it believed 40 percent of the worldwide workforce will be impacted by new AI technologies. Notably, it said “impacted” and not “replaced.” This will be important in a little bit.

“In [developed countries], about 60 percent of jobs may be impacted by AI. Roughly half the exposed jobs may benefit from AI integration, enhancing productivity,” the IMF explained.

“For the other half, AI applications may execute key tasks currently performed by humans, which could lower labour demand, leading to lower wages and reduced hiring. In the most extreme cases, some of these jobs may disappear.”

Certain job types are already being taken over by AI

There are already some job types that are disappearing, with the likes of IBM looking to cut 30 percent of customer-facing jobs at the huge corporation and replace them with AI.

The first posts to go? Those jobs that are involved in routine human resources tasks, like moving employees between departments. These will be among those IBM’s CEO Arvind Krishna said in 2023 can be replaced by generative AI software.

But the other half of the IMF’s “doomsday” report, the half that will be positively impacted will find that generative AI will actually make them better at their jobs.

Described as the ‘foremost expert on the digital economy in the world,’ Erik Brynjolfsson, director at the Stanford Digital Economy Lab, puts this situation quite well in a TV news interview with CBS.

Speaking from an American perspective, Brynjolfsson believes that most of the US economy – people employed in knowledge and information work – will be most affected by generative AI in terms of their jobs.

“I would put people like lawyers right at the top of the list [of which jobs will be most affected]. Obviously, a lot of copywriters, screenwriters,” he explains.

“But I like to use the word ‘affected’ not ‘replaced’ because I think if done right, it won’t be AI replacing lawyers, it’s going to be lawyers working with AI replacing lawyers who don’t work with AI.”

Embrace the machine spirit

Embracing generative AI, learning about the technology and how it can help your specific position, your job and role, and how to do it in a way that won’t get you replaced by the machine itself is not easy, and for countries like South Africa where a large portion of people still don’t have access to the internet – outright impossible in some cases.

The good news is that while these advances and impacts are only now being seen in the US and other developed nations, countries like South Africa still have a lot of time before they are felt here in the same way. I write “a lot of time” and not “all the time.”

60 percent of our respondents believe that their industries (including ICT, education, retail, finance, healthcare and others) will be “fully disrupted” by AI within the next 10 years, telling of a groundswell that is starting to be noticed. 54 percent said that their companies had already started investing in AI-related technologies in some way.

The disruption is inevitable, and while lawmakers take their sweet time to implement legislation to protect your job from being taken over by AI, and until then, it is up to you and me to find a way to read up, learn, understand and – let’s face it – embrace generative AI.

As a person who writes for a living, I don’t want to go the way of the dodo, and neither should you.

[Image – muntazar mansory from Pixabay]


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