AI and Jobs: What’s The Net Effect?

Artificial intelligence has arrived, and projections show its impact on the workforce will be substantial in the coming years

However, unlike dire predictions of the past showing a future where AI takes more and more jobs, current projections show a more mixed picture, as it’s becoming clear that the rise of AI will also create jobs, perhaps more than it eliminates. A lack of qualified experts will create exciting job opportunities but also create a somewhat murky future for companies that need experts to run AI-powered systems, according to research from both Gartner and O’Reilly.

According to Gartner’s research, AI will create more jobs than it eliminates by 2020. However, industries will be affected at different rates. The healthcare field, for example, will see a significant rise in jobs, as will education. Manufacturing labor, on the other hand, will likely be hit hard, as AI systems are able to eliminate many jobs in the field, and this trend show no signs of reversing. Overall, Gartner’s research shows a net gain of two million jobs in 2025. However, Gartner is careful to mention than AI and automation are related but still different fields, and automation will have further impacts on labor markets.

More Workers Using AI

Among workers mostly engaged in non-routine tasks, one in five will soon be using AI to some extent, according to Gartner’s research. However, those excited about using AI systems at work may need to temper their excitement. AI-powered systems will likely help with mundane tasks such as creating a work schedule, or systems might be able to prioritize emails so employees can focus on the most important tasks. However, these systems are likely to evolve into virtual secretaries over time, and those using these systems will find them to be valuable time-saving tools covering an ever-increasing range of tasks.

AI seems to perpetually be viewed as a future technology. Research from O’Reilly, however, shows that the foundation for AI-empowered companies already exists. A total of 28 percent of the leaders polled in the early 2018 survey report already using deep learning, which is viewed as perhaps the most important AI technology for typical businesses. Furthermore, 54 percent of respondents plan on using deep learning for future projects. There’s no clear line between AI systems and other statistical-based computer systems, but Big Data and other technologies share significant similarities with the type of AI coming online. Because companies already have much of this infrastructure in place, the transition should prove to be a straightforward one.

Growing Skills Gap

AI systems coming online will need to be programmed and maintained, and O’Reilly projects a significant gap for both developers and system administrators when it comes to creating and running AI systems. IT support roles are estimated to grow by 10 percent by 2026, and major industry players are forging programs to ensure the workforce can make the transition to AI-powered systems as seamlessly as possible. Google, partnering with Coursera, is offering training programs for IT professionals. Enthusiasm is also high, according to O’Reilly’s survey, and companies are preparing: 75% of leaders surveyed claimed to use an in-house or external AI training program. Whether training can keep pace with demand, however, remains to be seen.

AI is a technology that, understandable, causes some concern. Jobs, in particular, can be replaced by AI systems, and many fear a future where there simply aren’t enough jobs for people to work. The latest research, however, doesn’t anticipate this fate for the foreseeable future, as the AI technology coming online is primarily augmentative. While these technologies can have a dramatic effect on productivity, few systems coming online can function without a human operator. Furthermore, it’s likely that the number of jobs made redundant by AI will be offset by jobs requiring AI expertise. IT professionals need to ensure they’re ready for to AI-powered future, but non-technical workers might want to examine how the technology affects their field as well.

Trillions in Added Value

AI’s impact on business will be substantial, according to Gartner’s research. In 2021, AI will create $2.9 trillion in business value. Much of this value comes from the 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity added to businesses, and these trends will only increase over time. Non-technical employees should expect to see mundane tasks, which are fairly easy to automate using AI, being replaced by software. Although some jobs might be lost, current employees will more likely find themselves working with AI systems and automating tasks that don’t require human thinking.

Although AI will come to nearly all industries, it might be slower than anticipated in certain fields. Gartner’s research shows that people tend to prefer working with knowledgeable sales agents when visiting stores. This is especially true in specialty stores, including home improvement and cosmetics shops. Gartner predicts that, through 2022, efforts to replace sales associates will fail. However, change is still coming to retail: Check-out kiosks will become more popular, and companies will likely find way to use AI to augment the shopping experience while still providing the personal experience customers tend to enjoy. It’s unclear if these trends will change in the future as people become more accustomed to interacting with AI-powered systems, which offer far better capabilities than automated systems used in the past.

Artificial intelligence is rolling out in an unprecedented manner, and more and more people will be using AI systems for their daily jobs. Although some fields will be disrupted due to AI, and some jobs will be replaced by AI-powered systems, those who are able to adjust to AI will still have ample job opportunities and exciting options. Furthermore, AI will lead to even more IT jobs, creating even more demand in a field that’s already seen tremendous growth in recent years. Not everyone needs to be an AI expert to thrive in the future, but it’s worth following the news and finding out how AI will affect the field you’re working in.