Will AI really replace all our jobs?

The robots are indeed coming. But should we really be scared?

artificial intelligence / machine learning / network
Credit: Thinkstock

The robots are here — and they need jobs. Are you ready to work with them?

 One study shows that as much as half of the American workforce is at risk of being replaced by robots in the next decade. Another study shows that 6 percent of U.S. jobs definitely will be automated by 2021.

 If you’re in customer service, or you drive a taxi, you’re most at risk of being displaced by artificial intelligence. But trust me, you shouldn’t fear the robots.

 You’ve already seen the start of this. Brands have developed smart chat bots to handle basic customer queries. Fast food restaurants have computerized kiosks that can take your order. Uber and Google are testing self-driving cars that can get people (and freight) from point A to point B. Companies are using computer-generated processes to develop boilerplate content such as quarterly earnings report, allowing their writers and marketers to tell a story on top of that.

 If you believe the headlines, here are some other surprising occupations at risk: Middle management, commodity salespeople, journalists, authors, accountants — even doctors.

 As the rise of automation has made companies more productive than ever, it has also put human jobs at risk, leading to a very uncertain future. Disruption is happening faster than ever, and largely, we’re unsure of how to deal with it.

 So should we be panicking? If you’ve made your annual salary as a customer service rep or Uber driver, yes. But for most professions, AI could actually enhance our productivity.

 Every time a technological advance swept the country, this kind of fear set in. People are afraid of what they don’t yet know. It brings to mind the mythical quote often attributed to Ford founder Henry Ford, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses.”

 Just as people feared how machinery would eliminate jobs, they fear that automation will wipe out industries. Other than the ones I’ve mentioned above, most industries will be safe from elimination.

 This is a cyclical phenomenon. Each time a revolutionary technology comes out, there is widespread panic. Yet we still have a society after cars killed the horse-and-buggy and DVDs replaced VCRs. Society has always adjusted to revolutionary technology, and I don’t see AI being any different.

 The evidence is clear: AI is our next technological wave. There’s no use in trying to stop it, as it has already arrived. Smart employees will look to jobs in engineering, as these machines still need to be built and need regular maintenance.

 Schools are already stepping up to meet the need, highlighting the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education in children as young as grade school age. Today’s colleges are generating the best and brightest scientists, building the technology that moves the future.

 Simply put: we’re preparing a workforce that can work with robots, using AI to be better than ever. This is not a case of the machine dominating. People and robots can coexist, and already do.

 If you believe that AI is here to take over, you’re looking at this innovation all wrong. The way AI is being developed is to help human jobs, enabling human-fueled productivity to skyrocket.

 AI is enabling fast food workers to produce more food, cutting wait times and keeping a cash flow moving. On the other end of the scale, robots are helping CEOs get more done, using automated processes to save time on rote tasks. AI is enabling doctors to be more precise, recalling accurate information about patients and even performing surgery tasks that remove human error from the equation.

 Think of it this way: the robots aren’t coming for your job. They’re coming to take care of the mindless, tedious tasks you hate about your job.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

NEW! Download the State of the CIO 2017 report