​Artificial intelligence and machine learning seem to be raising more questions than answers these days, as many are now debating the ethical challenges raised by AI, as the technology extends into more corners of life.

La Fosse regularly brings together data scientists, engineers, and those working in the data and analytics space to discuss a range of topics from self-driving cars and smart cities, to Deep Learning code walkthroughs and Bayesian Learning hackathons. Our most recent event delved into the world of AI and how it will impact the world of work.

Here are their key points for consideration around the future of work in an artificial intelligence-driven world.

​Work in the Age of AI

You don’t have to look very far these days to find sensationalist scaremongering around the threat AI. Militant robots, mass unemployment, and social disruption dominate headlines. However, alongside this is a growing body of pragmatic and research driven literature into the perhaps more realistic impact of AI both now and in the future. Using this as a guide, we delved into some key questions on the topic. Primarily, what can we do to prepare ourselves for the changes AI will bring to the workplace?

Humanity has never had to deal with an entity more intelligent than itself. Caution, if not outright fear, seems reasonable. But whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist when it comes to AI, chances are, it’s only a matter of time until it’s a part of everyday life. Rather than being change resistant, the group agreed that, somewhat ironically, those most immune to job redundancy are those quickest to embrace AI.

The likes of Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri have already permeated many of our lives through our smartphones. The rapidly developing capabilities of these personal assistants and our increasing reliance on our portable devices means mobile will probably be one of the first platforms to see 100% penetration of AI. Most will have personal digital agents before a self-driving car.

For many, AI doesn’t pose an immediate threat to their job, but it will certainly change how people work. Less time on admin or scheduling and more time on the core activities of your role, hopefully making you more productive. Technology could also free us from day to day drudgery as repetitive and menial tasks are automated.

Some predict our virtual assistants will become so advanced that they’ll eventually be seen as peers, respected members of a group that we include in conversations and meetings as a source of advice and information. Even the creative industries, which you may expect to be reasonably immune from disruption, could use a digital assistant to generate designs and artwork, alongside a human acting as a curator and selecting the best pieces.

The jobs currently under the most threat are those that consist primarily of administrative or repetitive tasks. One member of the group used the roll-out of self-checkout tills in supermarkets as an analogy, suggesting that as technology advances many of these roles will be made redundant. However, as you’ll know if you’ve ever used one of these tills, it’s not all automated (at least not yet). Humans need to monitor, maintain, look after and re-train these systems. Looking ahead, coding could become a fundamental part of human literacy, but is our education system adapting fast enough to cater for this?

Or it may be that empathy, creativity, judgement and critical thinking will become the most valuable human skills in a world dominated by AI. So whilst AI can more accurately identify tumours from medical imaging than a radiologist, a human is better placed to explain results, council and console a patient. AI could field general customer service queries, but a human agent would be better placed to empathise with a disgruntled customer.

As some jobs disappear new ones will emerge. Humans will have a key role in handling and explaining the decisions of AI as well as monitoring and handling exceptions, where machine-made decisions need to be overridden (ever attempt bringing your own bag to a self-checkout till?). While we have no clear picture yet of precisely how AI will impact the world of work, what we can assume is that the majority of the human jobs that will sit alongside AI haven’t even been thought of yet.

The good news is that if you’re interested, there are plenty of people looking into this. Businesses, governments, and academics are taking the question seriously so there is no shortage of further reading on what to expect and how to prepare yourself:

Nick Bostrom – Superintelligence
Man has never had to deal with an entity more intelligent than itself, what happens if such an entity is created?

James Barrat – Our Final Invention
Beyond a certain Point AI won’t need us. It will itself be able to invent, what will that mean for humans?

Martin Ford – The Rise of the Robots
Companies like Facebook and YouTube may only need a handful of employees to achieve enormous valuations, but what will be the fate of those of us not lucky or smart enough to have gotten into the great shift from human labor to computation?

Joseph Aoun – Robot Proof
How does higher education need to adapt to cater for the AI age? What will be the skills needed in the future.

Brett King – Augmented, Life in the Smart Lane
Augmented is a book on future history, but more than that, it is a story about how you will live your life in a world that will change more in the next 20 years than it has in the last 250 years. Are you ready to adapt? Because if history proves anything, you don’t have much of a choice.

Paul Dogherty and H James Wilson – Human + Machine
“Human + Machine” provides a management playbook for success in our new age of AI.

Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind – The Future of Professions
Predicting the decline of today’s professions – we will neither need nor want doctors, teachers, accountants, architects, the clergy, consultants, lawyers, and many others, to work as they did in the 20th century.