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AI Is Coming, But It Is Not Taking Over Completely—For Now


Written by: Martin Dale Bolima, Tech Journalist, AOPG.

Imagine having to look over your shoulder because there is a replacement waiting in the wings to take your spot. Only, that replacement is not even a person. It is a robot, a machine, an algorithm. It is Artificial Intelligence (AI), and it is very likely coming for you. It is coming for your job. It is coming for all our jobs.

Or maybe not. At least not yet.

But, if reports by investment bank Goldman Sachs are true, AI is about to replace the equivalent of 300 million jobs in the US and Europe alone. That figure could grow bigger with the rise of generative AI, which some artists believe may very well lower their employment prospects, though the extent remains unclear at the moment.

“Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly pervasive in today’s world. Companies are leveraging it to automate tasks, improve decision-making, and create personalised experiences for their customers,” notes Jyoti Amblimath, Project Coordinator at Kambyan Network. “As AI technology continues to advance, it is likely that we will see even more pervasive use of AI in our daily lives.”

Pervasive but Not Omniscient

The doom-and-gloom scenario of AI taking over work makes for a good copy. It is a compelling narrative. It is also a tad overblown. For one, AI will not take over everything. It will not replace everybody any time soon. In fact, there will be jobs that AI will not impact significantly, let alone replace.

Jobs in the creative field and skilled trade work, in particular, are figured to be safe from the encompassing reach, according to Amblimath and Jonathon Wright, Chief Technology Evangelist at Keysight Technologies.

“The abilities that are unique to humans are imagination, intuition, anticipation, feeling, judging regarding a context and shifting between changing situations. It is exactly these abilities that humans possess, and which make us effective and irreplaceable. With increasing reliance on AI, some occupations may experience improvement in one or several aspects, while others will be untouched,” Amblimath claims.

Creative Work

The emergence of generative AI would seem to suggest that the domain of creative work will no longer be the sole property of humans. Amblimath and Wright say otherwise.

“Automation is programmed and cannot replicate creativity, which is spontaneous and requires imagination, dreaming and collective inspiration—something humans are best at,” Amblimath notes.

Wright concurs, adding, “While [generative] AI can generate art, music or even writing, it still lacks the deep understanding, intuition and emotional connection that human creators possess. AI-generated content often lacks the depth and nuance that comes from human experience.”

Human-Centred Work

Amblimath describes human-centred work as requiring the building of sophisticated relationships with people. Nurses, psychologists, caregivers and social workers fall under this category of work, as do business roles that require understanding clients and their needs. These jobs, according to the Kambyan Network executive, require a human’s touch as “empathy and emotional understanding are human characteristics that are notably absent in machines” while ethics and morality—two important traits in human interactions—are difficult to incorporate into AI.

For Wright, humans are also at the centre of roles that require high-level decision-making and strategy, and they are expected to be safe from AI—at least for now.

“While AI can analyse large amounts of data and provide insights, it lacks the contextual understanding, intuition and experience to make complex, high-stakes decisions,” Wright points out. “Human leaders will continue to be needed for strategic planning and decision-making in various sectors.”

Amblimath shares the same sentiment, adding, “Jobs involving high levels of human interaction, strategic interpretation, critical decision-making, niche skills or subject matter expertise will not be replaced by automation anytime soon.”

Skilled Trade Work

Skilled trade work refers to jobs that require lots of specialised knowledge, problem-solving abilities, mobility, dexterity and flexibility in unpredictable environments. Electricians, plumbers, construction workers and carpenters fall under this category of work, and they, too, are largely safe from AI for now.

To this point, Emma Arora, Managing Director, Head of Singapore at Cognito, adds how “there are still many aspects of the public relations and communications world that require human expertise”—and that this specialisation is, at this point, still irreplaceable.

“The makings of effective communication strategy and counsel requires the ability to advise clients at a highly specialised level, drawing from deep sectoral expertise,” explains Arora. “AI cannot fully replace the experience and judgement of consultants who are familiar with the social and cultural contexts of specific industries and markets and recognise the complexity behind them.”

Ultimately, the biggest reason these human-centred roles are not yet being impacted by AI is that machines, while fast, rational and sophisticated, are not intuitive, empathetic or culturally sensitive. Neither are they capable of analysing context, thinking critically through complicated scenarios or developing complex strategies. Until machines develop these capabilities, humans will remain the overlords of skilled trade work.

Advancing AI Means More Use Cases

Then again, AI is advancing, and it is advancing at a pace faster than even AI experts predicted. Meaning, complete AI dominance is not yet out of the question.

“As a field, things are moving really, really fast,” says David Cox, Director at the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab in Boston, US. “We’d love to harness these technologies and we’re working on that for our customers, but there’s an important step, which is: these things have to be trusted.”

That trust might be a long time coming, but even that is not out of the question. It is especially true given the major advancements in AI in so short a time.

“The truth is that we’re only just getting started. Advancements and innovations with AI will continue to create new use cases that will revolutionise the world of work. We have to be prepared to capitalise on the opportunities it brings to remain competitive,” notes Gavin Barfield, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Solutions, at ASEAN Salesforce.

Wright agrees, but he believes that the extent of AI’s impact on the world of work will depend on four main factors: advancements in AI technology, adoption rates across industries, regulatory frameworks and the ability of societies to adapt to these changes.

Some of the ways AI might further impact the world of work, according to Keysight’s Chief Technology Evangelist, include automation of tasks, new job opportunities, skill shifts, remote and flexible work, human-AI collaborations and ethics and regulations. In addition, AI and robotics will likely automate more tasks across a broader range of industries, leading to increased productivity. On the flip side, AI can potentially cause job displacement for certain roles, particularly those involving routine or repetitive tasks.

Out With the Old, In With the New

While AI is already replacing humans at work and will continue to do so moving forward,  Wright, Amblimath, Arora and Barfield all agree that AI will also create new jobs—compensating to a degree for the roles it has displaced and will continue to displace. The human workforce, however, is going to have to embrace AI and learn the skills associated with it.

“To effectively reap the benefits of AI, ensuring that the workforce is equipped with the right skills will be key,” Barfield explains. “A holistic deployment strategy, which includes both skills development and empowerment, will help to ensure that AI becomes a positive force in the workplace, making work more productive, rewarding and meaningful for employees. Businesses, in turn, get to reap the benefits of employee productivity, improved customer experiences, and better customer retention.”

As is already happening, the emergence of AI is also creating new job opportunities in fields such as AI development, AI implementation and AI maintenance. It is also opening up new positions in related areas like data science, cybersecurity and user experience design.

Unfortunately, the workforce appears unprepared for these new opportunities, as there is an ongoing AI skills gap marked by a global shortage of workers with the requisite expertise in areas like deep learning, robotic process automation and more. The talent pool for AI-related roles is even smaller than it is now given how other departments such as marketing, sales, customer service and even research and development are also looking to fill roles requiring AI acumen.

“Demand for skills will continue to evolve as AI becomes more pervasive in the workplace,” Wright notes. “Workers will need to develop new skills, such as digital literacy, data analysis, and complex problem-solving, while also enhancing their creativity, emotional intelligence, and adaptability. Ensuring that workers are prepared for the evolving job market and that the benefits of AI are distributed fairly, will be crucial in navigating this transformation successfully.”

Recalibrating AI Perspectives

The idea of getting replaced by an algorithm is disconcerting, to say the least, but to fear it is a bit overkill already. For Leonard Lee, President, APAC at Beyond Limits, AI must be viewed using a different lens altogether.

“Rather than promoting the fear that AI would entirely replace humans in the workforce, a more balanced perspective could be adopted. We should learn to collaborate with AI technology in order to tap on its full value,” Lee points out. “By integrating human expertise and knowledge with AI solutions, enterprises will be better equipped to make strategic decisions to achieve their business goals.”

The reality is despite the perceived negative ramifications of AI on the human workforce, its positive impact is undeniable—both in terms of bringing positive business outcomes and in generating new jobs (albeit those that necessitate new skills).

AI is also here to stay, and it is up to us humans to adapt.