The Future of Jobs in an AI-first Economy

Updated on :December 20, 2023
By :Darren Mathew

The internet is bustling with conversations about artificial intelligence and the potential social and economic upheavals the technology is likely to cause in the near future. AI Isn't just a buzzword anymore, thanks to the serious strides made by artificial intelligence companies in recent times. This is apparent in the fact that AI technology today has gotten so good it has major leaders in the industry and the workforce is concerned about AI replacing human workers within the economy. 

The integration of AI within various business functions has already begun. In fact, we did a detailed report on how employees use AI within the office, and the results were significant. According to our report, 86% of employees use AI at work. Given this significant adoption of AI and the massive improvements AI models like ChatGPT have made recently, many have begun wondering if AI is on the verge of causing massive job disruption. 

For the AI-in-the-workplace report, we interviewed multiple business leaders and AI experts. While being an investigative piece, this post will also draw insights from our expert interviews to answer the pressing question: Will AI replace us at work?

A Familiar Disruption: Revisiting the Industrial revolution 

The fear of economic disruption in the wake of technological growth isn't new. The most recent example of the same within history, and I’m sure most readers are aware of this discussion in the context of AI by now, was the industrial revolution. 

The TLDR version of which goes something like this: 

  • The industrial revolution, led by developments like the steam engine and assembly lines, brought massive changes to the social and economic structures of society. 
  • This happened due to the mechanization of certain jobs that were previously achieved using human labor. 
  • Prior to the industrial revolution, the workforce was spread across traditional industries like agriculture and handicrafts. Needless to say, the promise of machines brought unmatched productivity, efficiency and new capabilities to businesses that could afford setting up factories and assembly lines. 
  • But for the average worker, working conditions and wages dropped significantly across the board. 

Many believe that we are on the verge of a similar disruption, except this time it's digital not mechanical. Advancements in LLMs, and artificial intelligence in general, threaten to replace multiple low level jobs across industries.

AI could disrupt 300 million jobs in the near future.
BBC report

However, with massive chunks of the job market on the verge of automation, most workers still don’t believe that AI will replace them, as discovered in one of our recent surveys. 

Many jobs were lost post the industrial revolution but a lot more were created, too. And here is where the technophiles want us to rest at ease, stating the ‘revolution’ is a mere ‘transition’. An example of this line of thinking comes from one of our expert, John Pennypacker, VP of sales and marketing at Deep Cognition, who stated “I would say that ChatGPT and other AI tools are poised to significantly reshape the workplace by automating routine tasks, which leads to increasing efficiency and productivity”…..”This doesn't necessarily mean job loss but rather a shift in job roles, where employees can focus on more strategic, creative, and decision-making tasks.”

And while all of that is true, the bigger pictures need a few more details as to how exactly this transition will play out. 

We know from history that jobs became a lot more difficult after the Industrial Revolution. Workers had to develop brand new skills to augment technology they had never seen before. We like to assume that the workforce just shifted to a new economy, but the transition was far less rosy. Those that couldn’t keep up with the tech, were shoved down the economic ladder by social and cultural forces beyond their understanding. 

To sum up the issue, yes the AI revolution will make the economy more productive and efficient, and yes the tech will most certainly create new jobs. 

But that doesn’t mean everyone losing their jobs will simply get to upgrade to a new role, does it? 

Why?

Simply because:

The Future of Jobs in an AI-first Economy

Thriving in the Age of AI

So the question is, if AI can take our jobs, how can we upskill into newer, more complex roles? 

What skills will be essential moving forward in an AI-fueled economy? And how can we develop them? 

To understand this better, let's take a look at how AI adoption will change the current job-landscape. 

Understanding AI limitations will be the key

For starters, no matter where or how AI is used, it’ll always need some level of human supervision. So a large subset of the future workforce will have to be trained to not just use AI effectively and efficiently but also around how to use AI safely. 

We know AI safety is a big concern because almost every country on the planet is brainstorming to find the sweet spot between allowing regulation and innovation, including the US.

The Future of Jobs in an AI-first Economy

But AI safety isn’t merely limited to regulating tech giants, basic supervision on part of regular users like you and me is equally important. 

Another of our experts, Simon Bacher, CEO and Co-Founder of the Ling app added to the discussion reporting “People are concerned that AI will outright eliminate jobs. This will not be the case. Rather AI will make administrative tasks more efficient and be able to conduct grunt work. It will greatly reduce the amount of time taken to conduct research and produce initial drafts of content, presentations code etc. What it won’t replace is a human eye. We’ll need to always be checking for inaccuracies, biases, and structural errors.

Workers that recognize the limitations of the AI models they work with, and the ones who can step in at the right time to address them when necessary, will be the ones running the show in the near future. 

The practical lesson here is that folks across all industries need to be acutely aware of how AI is being applied within their respective niches along with the specific advantages and limitations of each AI model/product/implementation. Do that and you’ll be far from being replaced, no matter how many shiny new models come around the rapid innovations corner. 

Human Skills will Dominate the Workplace

And what do we mean by Human Skills? 

Stuff like creativity and empathy. These are uniquely human qualities which machines cannot emulate.

James Smith, founder of Travel Lingual, shared an interesting perspective on this topic, “They’re not just tools; they’re game-changers in business.” He added, “ChatGPT can transform customer support, create content, and analyze data, improving productivity and freeing human resources for creative and strategic work. But these changes will also allow us to focus on high-level work that requires empathy, creativity, and strategic thinking. That way, our human touch will remain valuable in the workforce.

And it makes sense. Without a ‘Human Guide’ AIs are directionless, because machines cannot have inherent goals and desires (at least not yet).

The Future of Jobs in an AI-first EconomyFei-Fei Li, Co-Director of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence and IT Professor at the Graduate School of Business 

The practical advice here is that humans will have to learn to tap into their deeper human values in a way that can enable them to steer this newfound productivity coming in from AI. 

And how do we do that? 

By understanding and connecting with what we are doing and why? It won’t be enough to simply show up at work, we’ll need to be invested in what we do in order to leverage our human values for the same. 

Luckily AI can help with that, since machines will be a big help when automating most of the ‘grunt work’ stated above, leaving the more ‘soulful’ bits for us humans. 

Its ‘Humans All the Way Down’ 

While discussing the nature of life and the universe, philosopher William James was once challenged by a woman who stated that his assumptions about the origin of the universe were wrong. 

She stated that the world was placed on the back of a giant cosmic turtle, who further rested on the back of another turtle, so on and so forth. When asked when or where this ‘infinite regress’ of magical turtles ends, she jokingly struck back saying, “It's turtles all the way down.” 

I think we are in a similar spot with the whole AI, humans and the future of jobs fiasco. Think about any task worth automating and ask yourself, ‘Why?’

If we ask “Why automate anything?”, “Why make processes more efficient?”, or “Why even bother trying to ensure ethical AI use cases or safety?” The answer is always simple: For the greater good of mankind. Or, if you prefer the less dramatic version, to make, in whatever capacity possible, all of our lives slightly better. 

Expert Ryan Walker, CEO of Beyond Academy stated “Our view is that although AI will become a useful tool to most industries, businesses will still want to nurture and grow their workforce, with enthusiastic and keen individuals. Not only will they bring personality that AI can’t give, they will add character, humor and diversity to a team. All of these things help keep workplaces alive and improve morale and good spirits.” 

The Future of Jobs in an AI-first Economy

While profit numbers and market projections take the front seat during company meetings, take a closer look and you’ll soon notice it's always the people and the culture that matter the most. It is and always will be ‘Humans all the way down’. And that's exactly why we’ll always need people around in our workspaces, no matter how many tasks we automate. 

AI Management will be A Hot Bed of Opportunities

While we talked about humans leveraging and supervising AI models performing existing tasks and opportunities, we haven’t discussed how humans fit into the brand new opportunities the AI-economy will create. 

Consider for example, the evolution of the internet. Travel a few decades back and something like Youtube could be considered an obscure website for nerds sharing video content. Most social media platforms as we know them today didn’t exist. Digital transactions were unheard of by the average person, and much of the world’s commerce was offline. 

Fast forward to today and the world is much different. Being a youtuber is a legit career option that millions aspire for. Our lives and everything we do to populate them would be virtually unrecognizable without the presence of social media. Most of the world’s money is stored as bits in servers and not pennies in piggy banks, and almost every aspect of commerce has spawned a digital counterpart. 

These changes have created massive opportunities and jobs. The point is, what was inconceivable a few decades back, is now our reality. We can expect a similar growth in jobs in the coming future thanks to AI. 

Job roles that do not even exist in today’s economy will be ‘expected’ and part-&-parcel of the future AI economy. 

What will these jobs look like? 

One of our expert, Mark Damsgaard, Founder & Head of Client Advisory at Global Residence Index, shared an example stating, “With all the advantages and conveniences brought by AI technologies, I think that it would be more regulated, and bigger companies that rely on such tech would need people to monitor it. Some would probably even create a legal team just to monitor if they are using AI properly and if there are certain regulatory updates in the future.” 

A specialized team handling the legal nuances of using AI models on a commercial scale certainly doesn’t exist for most businesses today, but it sure might in the near future. This is the type of jobs that the AI economy will create, novel occupations that do not yet exist. 

One practical approach towards surviving such a future would be to educate oneself on the upcoming AI advancements, along with the willingness to adapt to newer, perhaps more challenging roles. 

To Conclude

The short answer to the question: Will AI take our jobs? Is a resounding yes. 

But just like most questions worth asking, a simple answer isn’t enough. 

Yes AI will replace a ton of jobs in the current economy but most experts see this replacement as a transition. We believe Ai will also create new, more demanding jobs while taking over the old ones. 

And yes, this transition won’t be easy for the average worker, especially with artificial intelligence companies pumping out model after model at breakneck speeds. But the folks who’ll understand AI and its limitations, coupled with their innate capacity to augment and steer AI models using their unique human values; will be the ones who'll win the AI revolution. 

Yes AI will create new jobs that do not even exist yet, but to be fit for these new, much challenging roles; we’ll need to upskill ourselves with and around AI. 

The future is a beautiful challenge full of possibilities and risk, but we must make it through as long as we let ourselves be guided by our humanity.

Darren Mathew
Darren Mathew

Darren is a writer passionate about Technology, Business, and the evolving relationship between the two. He often tries to bring intriguing perspectives to otherwise familiar ideas, striving to help his audience reimagine the ever-changing tech landscape. He works as a blogger and content marketeer at GoodFirms—a leading review and rating platform built to help brands pick the right service providers for them.

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