Will A.I. take your job?

Written by: Bethlehem Gronneberg

Bethlehem Gronneberg
Founder and CEO, uCodeGirl | Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow | PhD Candidate | Lecturer of Computer Science  | YWCA Woman of the Year in Science and Technology

We are at the turn of the 21st century. According to Professor Klaus Schawab, Chairman and Executive Director of The World Economic Forum, we are in the 4th industrial revolution, a time of unprecedented change. In his book titled “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, Prof. Schawab noted, “These waves of technological changes are so profound that, from the perspective of human history, there has never been a time of greater promise and potential peril.”  

What makes this revolution unique is the convergence of previously disjointed systems and applications such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, the internet of integrated things (IoT), unmanned autonomous vehicles such as self-driving cars, computational biology in genetic engineering, blockchain, etc. have collectively created a force to be reckoned with. 

We know that technological advances are disrupting almost every industry in every country and creating massive change in a non-linear way at unparalleled speed, blurring of boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological worlds. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, over one-third of U.S. jobs could be at “high risk” of automation by the early 2030s. Stories like this could instill fear in the public that robots are going to take our jobs. It is true that over time, there will be some jobs lost to automation. However, there is a fundamental fallacy in that way of thinking that there is a finite amount of work for humans, such that if machines do that work, there can be no other work left for humans to do. Who would have thought of “Youtube influencer” as a job description. The issue of machines replacing human labour has been discussed as early as the 1st industrial revolution with the innovation of steam engines. And again with the introduction and mass production of electricity during the 2nd industrial revolution, there was a genuine fear for candlestick makers job displacement. When cars became popular, carriage makers were worried they would be out in the cold. And so forth.

In his book “What is The Future and Why It is Up to Us.” Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Media, talks about the importance of understanding the partnership between the creativity, ingenuity and empathy of humans in one hand and with the accuracy and processing power of Super Computers, on the other hand. Automation would enable human workers to do more productive jobs at higher wages. Before the development of electronic computers, the term “computer” referred to people and not machines at NASA. Upskilling and reskilling strategy is what we witnessed in the movie The Hidden Figures when the introduction of the IBM PCs disrupted the jobs of people computers. 

The question we should really be asking ourselves is, “how much are we investing in cultivating an adaptable workforce?” A.I. presents opportunities to educate, empower, and diversify the workforce. In order to build a more future-proof workforce, organizations have to look inside for the talent pool they already have and provide opportunities for re-skilling or up-skilling talent through formalized training programs. Looking beyond traditional talent pools to building great workforces. 

Apprenticeships, training programs for non college-educated talent, and partnering with organizations focused on such initiatives are key to preparing workforces for the future. Such approaches focus on offering access, training, and opportunity to populations who previously did not have a seat at the table. These changes to workforce development have the potential to drive more opportunities.

Alec Ross in his book, “The Industries of the Future”,  provides a view into the forces that will carve tomorrow’s economy and the difficult, necessary steps that must be taken to prepare ourselves and our children for a world with powerful artificial intelligence, robotics, and scientific developments. 

William Arthur Ward had said, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” How are you adjusting your sail?

About uCodeGirl:

The vision of uCodeGirl is to inspire and equip young women to become the future face of innovation in technology.  uCodeGirl is uniquely designed to inspire, engage and equip young women with computational design thinking skills, leadership traits, and an entrepreneurial mindset.  uCodeGirl strives to remove roadblocks and bridge the gender gap in technology so that young women can confidently pursue opportunities suitable for the 21st century.  By building confidence, enhancing skill sets and tapping into their intellect and curiosity, uCodeGirl helps young women chart a pathway to the T of STEM careers.

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