Artificial intelligence (AI) is already changing work in the modern workplace, and it will have an outsized influence on changes in the work landscape over the coming decades. Here are six of the ways artificial intelligence will likely impact the future of work.
1. AI Will Improve Operations in Every Sector, Not Just Tech
If you’re not already immersed in the world of AI, it’s tempting to think it’s only for big tech companies. But this is hardly the case. AI has already touched just about every industry in some way. Before looking at how artificial intelligence will impact the future of work, we have to start by acknowledging how much AI has already had an effect.
Most of us already rely on tools that either use limited AI directly or that were built using some form of AI assistance. For example, you may already be trusting your retirement investment allocation to an AI with little to no human management. And if you’ve ever used the dynamic Design function in the latest version of Microsoft PowerPoint, you’re already using AI yourself. Plenty of everyday web tools, from advanced grammar checkers to the spam filter in Gmail, also rely on AI and machine learning to do their thing.
AI is already everywhere in 2021. As we move toward the future, expect AI-powered tools to enhance operations in every sector. We also expect more and more of these tools to be available to everyday people and small businesses—not just the tech giants of the world.
2. AI Will Improve the Hiring Process—But There Are Risks
Any hiring manager will tell you that the hiring process can be terribly time-consuming and inefficient. And the interview process itself is very questionable: According to at least one researcher, the traditional job interview is a poor predicter of future performance, and there are massive incentives for the interviewee to lie. The process favors gregarious, extroverted personalities—often even for roles where those traits are a hindrance more than a help.
AI has already begun to impact the hiring process. Sites like Indeed advertise using the power of AI to find qualified candidates for organizations. (The usefulness of these recommendations is far from universal, but some employers do find value here.)
Cutting through a glut of applications to find the candidates worth considering is a huge benefit to hiring managers. And there are also more and more tools for assessing a candidate’s potential, many of which rely on AI. We expect this area to grow considerably.
At the same time, there are risks here. The algorithms that drive these AIs can themselves be biased—and often are shown to be so. As often as an AI might find a good candidate that humans would overlook, it could overlook good candidates for lacking some trait. Users of these systems may never know why a candidate was rejected, which is a point of concern.
Hiring bias, whether human or AI-driven, is a problem that must be dealt with.
3. AI May Improve Human Safety in the Workplace
As long as there are things to make that require human skills, there will be workplace safety concerns in manufacturing. Robotics was the first wave of both automation and safety improvements in manufacturing. Giving a dangerous job to a robot is a safer bet than giving it to a human, after all.
But today, AI is beginning to be used to improve human safety in the workplace. Through machine learning, companies can identify trends and patterns behind safety violations and incident reports in a way that goes far beyond manually hunting for patterns.
In time, we expect AI-powered tools will proactively make safety recommendations based on prior knowledge or data.
AI-powered early warning systems or emergency shutoffs are another factor here. We’re already seeing these sorts of systems installed in vehicles, where a vehicle can automatically apply emergency braking to avoid a pedestrian, for example. Similar systems could be implemented in manufacturing, construction, and any other heavy machinery application.
Yes, it will take time to develop these systems in a way that leads to increased safety without increased risk of collateral damage. But this is an avenue where AI may make a significant difference in the next few decades.
4. AI Is Assuming Repetitive Tasks, Leading to Productivity and Creativity
One of the best current uses of AI involves taking over repetitive tasks. In data science and computer applications, this often takes the form of robotic process automation, or RPA. AI can read and process forms faster and with more accuracy than humans, and it can process data at a pace that no human could ever match.
We’re starting to see this in other arenas as well. Take customer service, for example. Love it or hate it, when you call in or even chat with your favorite big retailer, the automated phone system or initial chat bots are AI-driven. Those phone systems that can listen to what you say and analyze intent are using some form of AI to perform that language processing.
While not every AI customer service solution is 100% effective, the productivity implications are huge. A computer can field a theoretically limitless number of simultaneous calls or chats while human agents can only take one at a time.
Of course, there are still plenty of complex situations that AI chatbots can’t come anywhere close to resolving. Humans retain a massive advantage in many areas, especially “gray” decision-making. AI won’t close this gap anytime soon.
But by leveraging AI to solve simple queries, companies are able to free up staff to focus on more important and sometimes creative work. They get more done in total, and their staff enjoy working on more interesting cases and solving more complex problems, rather than repeating simple, boring tasks all day long.
5. Data Will Become Even More Powerful—and Valuable
The more powerful AI-driven applications become at interpreting big data, the more powerful and valuable that data will become. Companies of all sizes are leveraging data to gain business insights. Access to this data—plus the ability to interpret it—is already crucial, but the value of this area will only continue to grow.
Equipping yourself with the skills to work with big data and the AI tools that work with it is an intentional move, given the increasingly large role this area will play in business in the years to come.
6. Some Jobs Will Disappear or Diminish, But Opportunities Abound
It’s the age-old question: Will the robots come for my job? This fear has been around for decades, and it’s a real one. The truth is some jobs will diminish or even disappear entirely. But this isn’t the crisis it may seem to be. Change will happen slowly and usually with plenty of warning. And for every job that AI makes irrelevant, other opportunities will spring up.
Be Prepared for the Future of Work
The future of work will be different, both in ways we can predict and in ways we can’t. But you can be prepared for the future of work, whatever it looks like. A master’s in computer science from Lewis University is the perfect preparation. Our concentration in artificial intelligence will prepare you to see AI as a tool and an ally, not a threat.