June 12, 2024

Mikayla Macfarlane

Serving technology better

Worried about AI gobbling up your job? Start doing these 3 things now

7 min read
Worried about AI gobbling up your job? Start doing these 3 things now


Lightbulb on a laptop

Igor Kutyaev/Getty Images

There’s a vigorous debate taking place currently about whether artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential power to wipe humanity off the face of the Earth. 

This much, however, is already clear. Before possibly executing a whack job on us, AI will insinuate itself in almost every facet of human existence, especially work life.  

Also: Today’s AI boom will amplify social problems if we don’t act now, says AI ethicist

And its first, most significant notice of arrival will be to replace a whole host of human jobs.

But not just anyone’s job. In partnership with Bloomberg, workforce analytics firm Revelio decided to take a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which had identified jobs imperiled by AI, and then put a gender filter on the results.

Also: How to use ChatGPT to write code

The result of the process was alarming. At least 10 million jobs, or 71% of the total number of jobs threatened by AI, belonged to women in what are called ‘support’ roles — bill and account collectors (82.9%), payroll and timekeeping clerks (79.7%), executive secretaries (74.3%), word processors and typists (65.4%), and bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks (65%).

Gender Cad

The results read like a cruel joke. After being shut out of the workplace for centuries, given the right to vote shockingly late, and brought into the workforce to aid various war efforts during the last century, women have subsequently had to fight hard to eke out workplace gains.

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Percentage of women in AI-exposed positions.

Revelio

Just a third (34%) of working-age women (16 and older) participated in the labor market in 1950, but more than half (57%) of working-age women were able to claw themselves into the workforce by 2016.

Today, women are still under-represented in higher management positions. They held just 20.5% of C-suite positions in companies in the S&P Index in 2021, up from only 16% in 2015. And a scant 10.4% of Fortune 500 companies have women as CEOs.

Nevertheless, these rises are steady, much-needed gains for society, which is why any setback caused by generative AI could be catastrophic.

“The distribution of genders across occupations reflects the biases deeply rooted in our society, with women often being confined to roles such as administrative assistants and secretaries,” says Hakki Ozdenoren, economist at Revelio Labs. “Consequently, the impact of AI becomes skewed along gender lines.”

Also: 6 harmful ways ChatGPT can be used

Other surveys, including one recently conducted by the Pew Research Center, have all come to the same conclusion. 

For instance, Pew examined 41 essential work activities in 873 occupations from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Information Network, and showed that a greater share of women (21%) than men (17%) are going to be at risk of losing their jobs due to AI.

Another study, from the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, estimated that as many as 79% of all working women (nearly 59 million people) are in jobs threatened by AI. The proportion for men was 58%.

Women who work as budget analysts, data-entry keyers, tax preparers, technical writers, and web developers will all see AI encroaching onto their turf. 

Once again, women will have to fight hard by taking proactive measures to upskill and find opportunities upstream in areas where machines don’t tread.

Also: AI could automate 25% of all jobs. Here’s which are most (and least) at risk

In fact, any kind of job that involves organizing, planning, managing, or navigating a complex set of codes or rules (such as junior staff in accounting, finance or law, and tax experts), is going to be at risk of gradually being replaced, say experts.

And what’s more, the potential impact of AI on jobs is proving to be even more considerable.

White-collar blues

It turns out that AI also has another seemingly unlikely cohort in its cross-hairs: highly-skilled, white-collar workers.

Apparently, AI will not — initially, at least — engage in the kind of class warfare that its predecessors, such as robots on automotive assembly lines, waged as they went about decimating the ranks of blue-collar workers.

Now, according to the same Pew report, AI is instead evening the playing field by gobbling up high-paying jobs — those roles that command college degrees and highly prized skills, including critical thinking, writing, science, and mathematics.

Also: Generative AI is changing your technology career path. What to know

The most affected cohort is expected to be Asian workers and college graduates. Asian professionals are some of the most highly educated workers and occupy a host of high-paying jobs that require advanced analytical and critical-thinking skills — where AI also excels.

Professionals with a bachelor’s degree or more (27%) are more than twice as likely as those who only have a high school diploma (12%) to see the most exposure from AI.

People who are less likely to be affected are those who perform uniquely human services — taking care of children and the elderly, or dealing with equipment maintenance.

occupations-and-ai-risk.png

Pew Research Center

Blue-collar workers might be heaving a sigh of relief at being spared the scythe, but the bad news is that this will merely be a temporary respite from AI for certain kinds of blue-collar jobs. As technology and advanced robots get further melded into manufacturing, some of these roles will also begin to fade away, say experts.

However, a plumber who often works on-location, interacting with clients while problem-solving and dealing with customers will not be replaceable anytime soon. 

Also: 40% of workers will have to reskill in the next three years due to AI, says IBM study

But an entire home construction crew that frames houses over the course of a month or two may be replaced by an enormous 3d printer loaded with a CAD design that is able to pour out the foundations and walls of your house in just a few days  — and with just two or three workers supervising the process.

It’s a situation that leaves me feeling that the concept of Universal Basic Income has never seemed as attractive.

Surviving and evolving

Amidst this pall of gloom, it is important to note that technology has always resulted in some jobs being compromised while new ones are being created.

Also: Data poisoning tool lets artists fight back against AI scraping. Here’s how

It is also certifiably true that machines cannot replicate the essence of what we humans are about — beings with unique qualities such as empathy, creativity, collaborativeness, flexibility, drive, and vision. It will be a long time before neural networks are able to have their artificial synapses fire in this way.

Nevertheless, it is crucial to re-skill ourselves for the future in ways that render AI an ancillary support system that can be harnessed for more efficiency or speed rather than being looked at as a job killer. After all, the calculator or the assembly line didn’t eliminate accounting or manufacturing jobs. They just paved the way for higher-order ones.

Here are some tips and observations to act on to survive in the age of AI:

1. Use AI at any given opportunity

Those who learn how to use AI tools will have an edge over those who don’t. What does this translate to? For starters, learn how to write ChatGPT prompts well, say industry experts, with enough context, detail, and good grammar.

Also: Six skills you need to become an AI prompt engineer

ChatGPT-style generative AI is essentially a Large Language Module (LLM) whose entire construction is predicated on how words and sentences are digested and linked to one another in a training process. It is, in other words, a giant predictive text machine, for now. So, better prompts that mine the ability to ask good questions framed in the right way will engender better responses. There’s an entire mini-industry coalescing around this skill.

2. Stay up-to-date on AI trends and your community

We may be heading towards a future where we use AI in as matter-of-fact a manner for our daily work and play as we have been using the internet. Therefore, staying abreast of the latest trends and technologies and bolstering your knowledge of tools can help you stay relevant and sought after. Seek out re-skilling or up-skilling opportunities that add multiple dimensions to your existing portfolio of skills.

Also: Want a job in AI? These are the skills you need

Equally important, as AI technologies proliferate, is the need to be part of a professional network that will help you to keep on top of things. Industry experts suggest joining in-person and virtual networking events, remaining active in online groups and making the effort to attend the occasional conference or industry gathering. There will be connections here that may prove to be important conduits for your next job or promotion.

3. Engage in rigorous career analysis

If you haven’t given thought to what you want to do next in your career, consider undertaking regular investigative forays into which careers are quickly becoming AI-proof. These invariably include people professions where what will be on offer is something that machines will always struggle to match such as nurses and other healthcare workers, teachers, coaches and physical trainers. 

But also on the list are blue-collar professions such as plumbers, electricians, and carpenters. They require on-site problem-solving, design and manual skills that no robot trundling in would be able to replicate with any degree of competence or speed.

Also: 7 advanced ChatGPT prompt-writing tips you need to know

“Plumbing is one of the types of jobs least likely to be replaced in any significant way by automation in the near future”, says Future Institute CEO Amy Webb.

“We’ve got too many different types of toilets,” she added. “So there’s no finely tuned, finely articulated robot that’s going to work on its own yet. It’s the knowledge jobs that are going to find that they are either obviated or reduced to some capacity.”





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