Why You Should Be Championing AI & Not Fearing It, No Matter Your Industry: A Collaborative Medium Piece

  • This is a collaborative Medium article — we’d like to think of it as a “Medium Duet” — between myself and Deena Anreise.

Artificial intelligence is a hot topic — and for good reason. Some worry about the inevitability of AI displacing human workers (e.g., unemployment) while others state that inevitability is erroneous. Regardless of what side of the fence you’re on, it’s irrefutable that AI is gaining steam. The collective wisdom is that if your job can be automated, it will be.

Uber, Lyft, and Otto are working to replace drivers with autonomous vehicles. This could displace taxi and sharing economy chauffeurs as well as truckers and delivery drivers across the globe. Fast food fry cooks and baristas are also at high risk of displacement, and it’s rumored that quantum computing and similar technology will eventually replace investment bankers. Even surgery could be replaced or altered as a direct result of artificial intelligence.

Does this fill you with unease?

With all the hysteria surrounding divergent statements of projected job loss due to AI, Deena and I thought it would be refreshing to dive into the facts surrounding the benefits of artificial intelligence and discuss the topic in a more positive light.

Image Credit: business2community.com

Leave Panic at the Disco

Are you scared that the increased use of Artificial Intelligence will give rise to unemployment? Don’t be. Three years ago, a group of researchers at the University of Oxford informed the world that technology was well on its way to destroying nearly 47% of U.S. jobs, yet new knowledge jobs have been consistently surpassing disappearing jobs since their report came out. Oops.

Now, why is that…?

According to Josh Zumbrun of the Wall Street Journal, “knowledge work occupations have been adding more jobs than any other year since the 1980s — about 1.9 million per year. The other categories are growing too, but only by about 100,000 to 250,000 per year.” Knowledge workers dominate. They are the cornerstone of our local, national, and global economies.

Here are just a few examples of how & why industries/landscapes will benefit from the advent of artificial intelligence. Let’s dive in…

News and Media (Deena)

In an online universe crammed full of content, how does anyone’s content gain attention and engagement? People are hired and fired based on their ability to get and sustain more eyeballs, so everything that news and media outlets do pivots from this central question. If they can’t keep people engaged, they don’t get to keep their jobs.

With AI, news and media outlets are able to produce and distribute the content people want when they want it. These outlets will be able to harness the contextual relevance provided to them by AI technology. Nick Edwards, CEO and Co-founder of Boomtrain, states that “Every media company needs to be proactive when it comes to investing in AI technology in order to better understand each individual reader or viewer of their content. Social media is great for brand awareness and top of the funnel, but using data to understand who is consuming your content creates a 1:1 relationship with consumers.”

Social Media (Dakota)

In social media, while machines may take over mind-numbing tasks (answering basic questions, automatically posting quotes from articles on your blog, generating headline suggestions, etc.), there will still need to be an overseer developing the creative, the outline, the tone, and aligning with the goals of the user or brand. Chatbots have been the main topic of discussion when it comes to social media and AI, and many experts believe their primary role will focus on customer service. This will free up time for companies, agencies, and influencers to devote more time to creating the parameters for this technology, the ideas for content/campaigns, and monitoring what AI does. For more on this topic, read this article.

In addition, ecommerce within social media will benefit from refined algorithms personalizing a user’s shopping experience based on their preferences. Imagine the benefits a platform like Instagram — with virtually endless potential in terms of ecommerce — would have if they had a feature such as IBM Watson + North Face’s tool? Of course, most social channels have already been exploring the potential AI can bring them, with Facebook’s M being the prominent example. With all of these amazing advancements, those working in the social media industry could very well be free from the mindless tasks the landscape brings them, giving them more time to focus on being creative and innovative.

Government (Deena)

AI is fantastic at blind efficiency. However, AI cannot mine data for a conclusive answer. Did AI catch Osama bin Laden? Nope. He was caught by dedicated, resourceful human beings in partnerships with AI technologies. AI can complete tasks quickly and without question, but it cannot look at the data and find novel insights. Only perception, messy productivity, and continual adaptation can discover such insights.

Education (Dakota)

It’s clear that artificial intelligence will bring a momentous change in the workforce. In order to adequately prepare citizens for this change, the skills that will become imperative (creativity, problem solving, practicality, and agile learning) need to be prioritized within our educational system while things like memorization will need to take a backseat. Plain and simple. While there are companies like Khan Academy, Coursera, Udemy, and Udacity leading the charge in terms of lean education and skill building, all education — public and private — will need to be fast and fluid in order to keep up with the speed of innovation.

On this topic, Geoffrey Canada (author, education innovator, and President of the Harlem Children’s Zone) put it best in his TED Talk when he said:

“Why is it that when we had rotary planes, when people were dying from polio, that we were teaching the same exact way we are now? Who created that business model?”

AI-driven resources such as apps, online courses, “teacher-bots”, and 24/7 virtual tutors could very well lead the charge for a new business model in education by giving all students with an internet connection access to opportunities that were previously reserved for the privileged.

Of course, momentous changes do not come easily. I’d never pretend there are simple, cure-all solutions or that I‘m an education expert. What I do know is this: if these changes do not occur then we will have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of citizens unprepared for the high demands of the workforce. This will increase unemployment and decrease national productivity, so topics like AI should be taken seriously within education today and not be put off until tomorrow.

Automotive Manufacturing (Deena)

When electronic control units (ECUs) were introduced into automotive mass-production in the seventies, everyone thought automotive jobs were going to quickly become a thing of the past. Yet, the opposite happened. A renaissance of performance and ingenuity occurred wherein engineers designed more complex motors to take advantage of the ECU’s precision. No one expected that. Nor did anyone expect that over forty years later, the overall number of people involved in the production of a car hasn’t changed much despite robots and automation.

In fact, electronic parts and applications have created more new jobs than anyone ever thought possible. For instance, there were only a handful of cognitive systems engineers to optimize the interaction between driver and electronic system. Today, that job is in high demand.

Writing (Dakota)

How will artificial intelligence affect writing? For starters, AI will give writers a lot more time for writing. Aspects of writing like proofreading, research, and suggestions are the target for companies developing AI within the landscape (Grammarly, WriteLab, Hemingway App, etc.). In advertising and copywriting, AI will be a vehicle to optimize for more conversions (e.g., Persado). Tasks like analyzing the strength of headlines (e.g., CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer), keyword suggestions, and more will be at the fingertips of marketers everywhere at a scale like never before.

Much like other landscapes and occupations, writers will only benefit when AI takes care of the menial chores of writing as opposed to full-scale creation of ideas and arguments. Nonetheless, being a writer myself, I am stoked to see what the future holds for AI in writing. Granted, thoughtful writing will certainly be one of the tasks AI will have the hardest time replicating, so we have a long way to go until we should worry about competing with robot authors.

Conclusion

Recently, Inc. Magazine published an article citing three trends that will change the way we work in the future. One of those trends is this: AI will make us more efficient employees, thus doing more good than harm for the global workforce. That’s because AI represents the democratization of the work ecosystem much like social media democratized publishing and broadcasting. AI makes us more productive, and that increased productivity steers business growth and success.

It’s true the coming years will be full of surprises and unexpected turns, but it doesn’t mean the changes should be viewed as negative. In the same way new jobs that didn’t exist before have been created in the past 10 years (Uber driving, Facebook Ad agencies, YouTubers, etc.), jobs we can’t even begin to fathom right now will emerge in the upcoming years. The roles of humans in the workplace will change drastically, opening up more time for creativity and strategy and less time for monotonous tasks.

Artificial intelligence is an inevitable trend, but preparation for it is optional though encouraged. There is still plenty of time to prepare for the shifts to come. It will take work on all fronts — from education to hiring to personal development, but it is more than within our grasp. If we begin to think about these issues now, we will better equip ourselves, our schools, and our future jobs for the marketplace.


In the comment section: What do you think about all of this? Are you scared or excited about the advent of artificial intelligence in your industry? Also, what did you think about this Medium Duet format?


Thanks for reading! I hope you find value in the collaborative article! If you did, punch that Recommend button and be sure to follow Deena Anreise!

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