Is AI a Threat to the Human Workforce?

Joanna Riley
Sep 9 · 4 min read

Some people believe that artificial intelligence, or AI, is set to replace humans in the workforce in the next few decades. Although artificial intelligence continues to evolve, it’s a stretch to assert that humans will no longer be needed in the workplace, or that they will be replaced by machine learning.

One of the defining features of artificial intelligence is its ability to learn by recognizing patterns in large amounts of data and using this information to solve problems. This is somewhat similar to the way the human mind functions. Many critics of AI believe that the continuous development of this technology will drive humans from the workforce and create a societal shift where humans are no longer needed for most positions. However, there are flaws in this argument that, once considered objectively, demonstrate how AI has a vital place in the workforce, but is unlikely to completely replace humans.

artificial intelligence
artificial intelligence

Limitations of AI

Despite the major advancement of AI in the past decade, the technology still has limitations, particularly in certain situations. In general, jobs that require creativity, complex strategizing, and human empathy are unlikely to be replaced by a machine. It’s also important to remember that AI needs data to function and learn — and someone must produce this data. Some of it can be collected automatically, but other types of data must be gathered and inputted by humans.

Even with advances such as self-driving cars, the human component is still critical for handling real-life situations that AI has trouble navigating. In general, AI functions best in controlled environments, and a car essentially operates in an open system, with less predictability. An airplane’s autopilot works because it operates in empty air. A car must navigate around other drivers and pedestrians who don’t always move predictably, and deal with an often-chaotic environment with shifting obstacles. This is just one example of a “smart” technology that, although it offers exciting possibilities, still relies on human intelligence, intuition, and decision-making.

AI will not replace humans

From a critical perspective, AI (and technology in general) has certainly made some jobs obsolete, but taking a realistic view of the situation, it is highly unlikely that AI will ever be able to completely replicate human abilities.

Historically speaking, even when new technologies seem to shake up the processes we have become accustomed to, new fields and industries arise, and new jobs are born. The invention of the internet created a powerful new industry that now employs millions, for example. Some jobs may be eliminated when a disruptive new technology arrives on the scene, but others are created.

In fact, a 2017 study from Gartner Research estimates that AI will create as many as 2.3 million jobs by 2020, while only eliminating 1.8 million. In addition to giving birth to new industries, AI can also help workers by freeing them from the drudgery of menial or repetitive tasks — it can give people more time to focus on the uniquely human aspects of their work. You might say that, rather than making humans obsolete, AI is doing the opposite: it’s underscoring the importance of the human element in the workplace.

Asking the right questions about AI

Despite the evidence that AI supplements rather than replaces human intelligence, people still primarily want to discuss AI’s potential effect on jobs. However, a better question might be: how can humans (and organizations) use AI to their best advantage? What can AI bring to an organization, that humans can’t? How can it help people in their day-to-day work? What new jobs will be created by AI? What skills do people need to work alongside AI effectively, and how can they acquire them?

How can companies make AI work for them?

One of the most effective places to implement AI in an organization is in human resources — particularly during recruiting. Turnover remains a huge problem in organizations across most industries, and many top companies are looking at ways they can use AI to augment their recruiting and retention efforts. By relying on AI to handle the more time-consuming aspects of recruiting, recruiters have more time to do what they do best: using their knowledge and people skills to interview and assess candidates.

Employers can look to AI to assemble a pool of ideal candidates through analysis of previously collected data. This is one of the biggest selling points of AI, since it can analyze large amounts of data, find matches, and draw conclusions — something it would take thousands of hours for a human to do. AI can also lessen the harmful effect of human bias in recruiting, allow for greater objectivity in selecting candidates, and enable organizations to find the person who is truly the best for a particular role. In this way, companies like Censia, with its Talent Intelligence and Talent Delivered platforms, are helping HR departments at organizations in almost every industry.

The Future of AI and the Workforce

The future looks bright for AI as the technology continues evolve and we develop more ways to harness its potential. It’s important to remember that AI will not make humans obsolete; there will always be a need for human creativity, innovation, and empathy.

Rather than worry that AI will steal jobs, we should instead focus on determining the best ways to leverage AI to improve work and support human progress.

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