Will AI take my job ?
Whenever a new technology becomes commonplace, there will be disruptions. Technology and their associated disruptions have occurred throughout history. e.g. The monks / clergy were primarily responsible for making books (by hand). This restricted the flow of knowledge. Then the printing press came along. In the 1920s, telephone companies employed thousands of folks as operators. Today algorithms have largely taken over. Essentially any manual / repetitive task was automated out of existence. This process of creative destruction is nothing new.
What is new with AI though is the order of magnitude change that it can bring in. Today, ML models can be trained with 1 trillion parameters. (To put that in context, a human brain consists of 100 billion neurons and over 100 trillion synaptic connections). How long will it take for a model to appear with 100 trillion parameters ?
Another facet about this phase of disruption is that it will impact both white and blue collar alike. If you think your cushy job as a communications director/programmer/community moderator in mega corp is safe, think again !
Some professions / domains are more susceptible to loss/automation by AI than others. It would be a useful thought exercise to go over some and analyze how deep the impact of AI would be on them. It’s not possible to cover all professions here, but we can analyze some common ones and draw parallels from them. I have broadly classified them in terms of High / Medium / Low risk.
High Risk Professions
Cars today can operate at Level 4 autonomy. Within a decade or so, it will get really close to Level 5. The same goes for trucks. For context, there are 3.5M truck drivers alone. In the future, there may be dedicated lanes just for self-driving cars / trucks as they can be driven much more safely / optimally.
With chatGPT / generative AI, this should not come as a surprise.
Artists / Entertainment
There are already models out there for generating music from text. In future if you want a composition with classical music along with an electric guitar thrown in, a model can do it for you. We’ve already seen the amazing pictures / paintings being generated by AI. (Where does that leave artists ?) Animated series/movies would become serious rivals to traditional actors.
It is already broken. It’s just begging for disruptions. Our educational institutions are forever broke and a lot of folks are realizing that it does not provide the value it once did. Everything from the duration (why does a BE need 4 years ? You can easily condense it into 2. Same with medicine) With new AI tools, the value of non STEM related coursework will plummet. It would become a luxury few can afford.
Anything that is repetitive, follows some basic rules (or pattern matching) is at risk. If a bot can do better or just as well as your financial adviser, why would you pay a premium for it ? There are already a large array of robo advisers in the market now.
I doubt the legal profession would be able to command the rates they do today. A lot of their cost is owing to hours spent researching past cases. AI can do a much better job of it.
With automation, a lot of these jobs will go away. Given the choice of dealing with unions or robot maintenance, guess which one management will choose ? Over time, most large scale production jobs will be automated out.
Essentially any profession based on tasks that are repetitive / based on pattern matching or based on having a large corpus of knowledge is at a very high risk of being automated out.
Medium Risk Professions
Programers / Developers / Engineers / Architects
There would be tremendous productivity boosts using AI. This would also mean that you ultimately need lesser developers to do the same job. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Hopefully the bandwidth freed from this would encourage us to solve more challenging problems. That said, the number and quality of engineers needed in the world of AI, will be very different.
Professions that require some creativity / novel thinking will not be as exposed to the AI onslaught. The numbers needed for such jobs would no doubt reduce, but they won’t go away.
Low Risk Professions
One thing we can be certain of is that humans will always fall sick. approximately 40% of the US adult population are obese. It’s hard to automate care. No doubt the medication might get more sophisticated (and some diseases probably eradicated too, thanks to AI), but we will still fall sick. Also, the general population is living longer and aging. All of them need care.
Travel / Vacation
Humans are not machines. We still need to relax and unwind. Though seasonal, we would still need people in the hospitality industry to cater to this demand.
Law Enforcement / Defense
Humans being humans, distrust and crime will always be with us. With nations increasingly at odds with each other and the end of a unipolar world, the defense machinery will be alive and kicking. Within nations, society is just getting more fractured. Divisions are easily amplified. Law enforcement is not going anywhere.
Construction / Manual Labor
Physical labor is still needed for, well, everything. Think housing, hospitals, roads etc It’s going to be hard to build robots to do everything. (robots are by definition very vertically designed i.e. for specific industries / domains). Manual labor is still very much needed.
Primary / Middle / High school education will still be around. Let’s face it, parents would go nuts if these are automated.
Sports / Entertainment
Humans are an easily bored species. We need something to entertain us constantly.
Anything that requires a human touch or involves emotions / feelings, is not going anywhere. Humans need companionship. AI is not going to fill that void.
So what should we do ?
AI can never replace Creativity. AI does not know what it does not know. It cannot feel, think, suffer, yearn like humans do. It does not have a soul. It does not know what problems are worth solving.
Although a lot of professions / livelihoods will be disrupted, there will always be new problems to solve. New professions will emerge. We should be comfortable to learn / unlearn things and leverage AI to be even more productive.
We may also see the emergence of a phase where we practice multiple professions or have to reset our careers a few times. AI will undoubtedly open new opportunities and we should be comfortable enough to take our learnings from our last career and transfer it to something new, starting afresh. (This is not as startling as it sounds. In older generations, you joined a firm and that’s where you retired. Nowadays, folks routinely switch jobs (for software engineers it’s like every 3 to 4 years on an average). The next generation would just have to be even more nimble.)
In the world of chatGPT, Bard and the next hot LLM, maybe the smartest thing for next gen to do is…focus on that english class !