Will AI Take Over My Job?

Max Pritchard

Over the past couple of decades, since the birth of the web, automation of business processes has progressed at an exponential rate. Responding to public demand for services to be immediately available has been the difference between businesses thriving, or shutting down. One of the latest tools in the drive for organizations to automate and improve has been the recent impacts of machine learning techniques, known collectively (if incorrectly) as “Artificial Intelligence” or AI.

Some businesses have already done some great things with AI. Using machine learning, intelligent robots have been able to digest vast oceans of data, identify and map patterns, and engage in very human-like behaviour using this “learnt knowledge”. For example, IBM’s AI ‘Watson’ famously competed and won the popular US game show Jeopardy.

Just as industrial adoption of robotics has revolutionised production line manufacturing, particularly in dangerous, repetitive and/or precision work, AI is poised to revolutionise organizations of all types. In a report published by Gartner, it predicts that 1 in 5 workers engaged in primarily non-routine tasks will rely on AI to get work done by 2020.

”Companies are just beginning to seize the opportunity to improve non-routine work through AI by applying it to general-purpose tools. Once knowledge workers incorporate AI into their work processes as a virtual secretary or intern, robo-employees will become a competitive necessity” Craig Roth, Research Vice President, Gartner

Gartner predicts that AI will replace current low-level and routine jobs very soon and will play a role in higher-level jobs in the future. This could have a massive effect on the job market, with a potential for 2.3 million jobs to be created, and 1.8 million lost. So, which jobs are most at risk? What new roles might appear?

AI is becoming more and more advanced; is your job safe?

Security Analyst

Security analysts have a range of roles depending on the employer and the tools they have access to. Analysts often trawl through fragmented pieces of logs looking for breaches or threats. It’s a thankless task. However, it is a task where a lot of the heavy lifting may be better performed by AI. Massive data sets, numerous sources, looking for patterns 24×7 without losing concentration or becoming fatigued.

The Security Operations Centre (SOC) at the University of Texas A&M system has adopted artificial intelligence for its incident detection and triage role. This machine learning based security system has been successful in considerably shortening incident resolution times from days to minutes.

In other areas of security analysis, for example, credit card fraud, AI is already in widespread use to recognise patterns, flag anomalies and therefore help prevent fraudulent transactions.

To adapt to the changing capability of AI in security work, organizations need to change the way they recruit and train staff. For example, companies could train employees to work with the new AI technology or look to recruit staff with skills that AIs find difficult.

Anup Ghosh, Chief Security Strategist, Sophos, said companies must refocus training programs to improve skills that enable compatibility between humans and AI. Skilled workers are still required, just with a different skill set. The job will now become figuring out why the incident is a problem, not what the problem is.

“You want to see the folks that have a lot more skills. … The big things that we look for are things like curiosity and the mindset that you’re never satisfied with the answer.” Peter Guerra, Vice President of Cyber Forensics, Booz Allen Hamilton.

Guerra also adds that excellent communication skills are just as important, to be able to explain security issues to those in executive positions.

Sales

A job in sales is simple on the outside but can encompass a wide range of required skills – account management, new business acquisition, product selling, consultative sales, product and marketplace knowledge, negotiation. In industries which involve large numbers of small-scale transactions, AI has already replaced some human sales roles, for example in online retail.

Having the option to communicate with a bot instead of a person is cheaper for the company and is becoming less uncomfortable for members of the public. It allows business to sell 24×7 and deal with difficulties of language and product knowledge. A lot of relevant information is on the Internet, so the need for salespeople of this type is decreasing.

In the IT industry, B2B (business-to-business) sales are complex and can involve deals of the order of thousands to billions of pounds, long contracts, service level documentation, and strategic long-term risk and commercial management. Utilizing AI in deals like this is not as easily implemented as with smaller scale sales, but AI will begin to pose a threat to the current jobs in that area as its capability extends.

Tony Hughes, a leading author and keynote speaker in the world of sales, agrees. He believes that a big percentage (around one third) of sales jobs are going to disappear globally, therefore whoever stays must adapt. To embrace technology and grow in a sales role, and therefore increase efficiency and productivity, is the only way to keep your job in sales.

 To read more from Tony Hughes, please see his full interview on the possible consequences of AI on the sales industry here.

If you work in sales, can you see AI playing a role in your job in the future?

AI augmentation, using the best aspects of human and machine intelligence, is becoming a reality in the field of sales. This has many benefits, for example, it saves a busy salesman/woman valuable time in completing mundane tasks. AI could determine when and how to take the next best action, like following up on a lead and inform a salesperson to place a call or call a meeting.

It is highly unlikely that the whole field will be replaced artificially. There are many aspects of the sales process that a machine cannot replicate. Humans are brilliant at reading the body language and emotions of the buyer, which becomes important when negotiating a deal. If a company is about to shell out hundreds of thousands of pounds in security, they need to trust their seller. A human is capable of forming a relationship of trust with the buyer, unlike a machine.  There is a popular saying in sales ‘People buy from people’.

AIs are good at playing chess, but they are far less adept at playing poker – even though, as a game, it is very mathematical and you can play the numbers – at the highest levels you have to play the player.

Management

Management is an integral aspect of a business in any industry. Whether that be at a low-level middle manager or an executive leadership position, many of the same skills are required for each. According to a study by Accenture, 54% of the job is completing administrative coordination and control tasks – perhaps commonly tagged as “management” as opposed to “leadership”. This is a key example of where AI could bring a useful quality. AI can automate many administrative tasks such as sorting out schedules or tracking skill development against business objectives and providing progress reports.

Accenture’s survey with 1,770 managers revealed that 86% are looking for the support that AI can offer. This is a positive indication of how the use of technology will be received.

“We should think of technology as being intended to support us, not replace us.” Layne Thompson, Director of ERP, US Navy IT department

An important outcome for managers gaining free time from administrative tasks is that the time this frees up can be applied somewhere more useful. An emphasis on helping and developing the people in your business is crucial for a successful organization. However, this process is not yet possible with AI, as empathy and decision-making under chaotic conditions are crucial factors yet to be achieved satisfactorily in artificial intelligent systems.

Conclusion

Overall, to answer the question “Will AI take over my job”, multiple factors must be considered. Does your job involve non-repetitive tasks and decision making? Do you have to work with incomplete information sets? Is leadership a key part of your role? Can you embrace AI to make yourself even more efficient? If your answer to all these questions is yes, then your job just could be safe.

If companies were to continue with traditional methods of doing things (i.e. just using people), there is a strong possibility they could lose competitive edge, and customers as a result. To keep up with changing preferences of customers and the competition, we must adapt.

McKinsey reported that robots/machines have the ability to take over 49% of the current worker activities. Looking at this figure, perhaps a change in how we employ people is needed. Employing people that are willing to embrace AI in their role and not see it as a threat could be what modern businesses are looking for.

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