How to survive the rising tide of AI

Matt Aunger
Apr 19, 2017 · 3 min read

No matter what industry you’re in, AI is infiltrating our work and social lives at an exponential rate.

From Alexa, Siri, and Google Now, to even the most basic customer support chatbots, companies across the globe realise this incredible leap in technology can boost productivity and reduce cost, resulting in a plethora of fresh investment across the board.

It’s an exciting time for us sci-fi nerds. Sure, the silver screen warned of Skynet and the rise of the machines. And on some level, creating intelligent beings that lead to our own obsolescence is a distinct possibility. But let’s face it, the thought of a semi-sentient robot butler that caters to your every passing whim is way too cool to pass up!

As exciting as it is, though, I would be remiss to not acknowledge the far-reaching, real-world consequences happening right now. As the Guardian’s Dan Shewan reported in January, AI is having a huge impact on the modern workforce. McDonald’s deployed automated “Create Your Taste” kiosks, Fastbrick Robotics development of the Hadrian X, a bricklaying bot that can lay 1,000 standard bricks in one hour. Meanwhile, in Japan, Insurance firm Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance replaced 34 workers with IBMs Watson Explorer AI. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, machines replacing workers is nothing new. Automated manufacture bots have been replacing traditional labour for years. But now, with the rise of AI, the gloves are off. Now, not only can technology replace you, it can learn, evolve, and improve thanks to deep learning algorithms.

Terrifying? Maybe. Exciting? Certainly. But while many would report on this rising tide of AI as a sign of the end of days, are the bots really coming for your jobs?

The short answer is, it’s complicated!

It’s true AI can take on a variety of exciting tasks. Yet, the best application, as many companies are now finding, is to ease the strain on the workforce. Responsible employers can deploy AI to take care of the costly, relentless, mind-numbing, repetitive processes that even the hardest worker detests. This, in turn, provides greater opportunities for workers to evolve into more rewarding, profitable roles. It’s a win-win!

Convince and Convert’s Jay Baer recently wrote about this. Reporting on the use of IBM Watson at The Master’s golf tournament, he offered a use case of AI which “gave us another glimpse of marketing’s future”.

According to Baer, Watson’s incredible cognitive ability allowed it to “automatically determine which video clips should appear on the official Master’s website and mobile app.”

Using “real-time signals such as loudness of crowd reaction and announcers’ use of superlatives in their commentary (the shot was “terrific” or “spectacular,” etc.), Watson instantly identifies a snippet of video as a highlight, tags it, and pushes it live in seconds, including to Twitter.”

Baer later pointed out the real impact on marketing. The opportunities and applications from a marketing context, such as “determining optimal email subject line for each recipient of a campaign”, and “creating programmatic ad buys for content that outperforms your historical baseline.” All things that a marketer can do now, but all things that are basal and mind-numbing. So why not outsource it to AI?

The implications of what Watson can do are astonishing. The reality is the bot can create optimal content, and likely get better results in the process. As someone whose job, in part, is creating and distributing content, and engaging with the AskPorter community, perhaps that should worry me. I guess, on some level it does. But, more than anything I’m excited what the future holds.

I have no doubt AI will take over my job in its current form. And I welcome that time because it will free me up to take on bigger projects.

As has always been the case with workforce displacement, breakthrough technologies create new, often more complex and rewarding jobs and tasks. Survival becomes less a fight, and more a case of identifying where you fit and being curious enough to grow alongside the technology.

The key to longevity in an increasingly AI world is this agility, curiosity, and willingness to adapt. As we face an AI filled future, learning to work with emerging technology has never been more crucial.

Survival is simple. Understand how you can use AI to help you, as a worker, deliver better results.

Matt Aunger

Written by

Remote work advocate, Customer Education @HelpDocs, and pretending to be a real writer.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade