Are You at Risk of Losing Your Job to AI?

Is Your Job In Jeopardy?

AI and automation, based on current technologies and reasonable extensions, will replace 40-50% of jobs within 15 years. Here are the types of tasks and jobs that AI is poised to take over in the near future.

  • Repetitive labor, especially if their tasks are done in the same or very similar locations (e.g., dishwashing, assembly line inspection, sewing)
  • Fixed variants of interactions based on a script (e.g., customer service, telemarketing)
  • Relatively simple classification of data, or recognizing of patterns that requires less than a minute of thinking (e.g., filing, grading homework, sorting business cards)
  • Work in a very narrow field in a single company (e.g., telesales for your bank’s products, bookkeeping for the same department)
  • Jobs that don’t require a lot of face-to-face interaction with people (e.g., sorter, assembler, data entry)
  • Companies in many industries investment are investing heavily to develop AI/robots (e.g., autonomous vehicles, AI radiologists), although this type of replacement may take a long time to be pervasive.

Will AI Replace Your Job

Current AI technology is already well suited to perform these jobs. Some have been deployed, and many are in testing. Actual job displacement may take longer, but if your job fits the above categories, it is not too early to start planning a new career, and start your training.

Avoid a career that AI can do today, and in AI Superpowers gain an understand what AI cannot do. Instead of fearing AI, look at it as an opportunity to upgrade your job to a more differentiated and less routine one.

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AI and automation will replace 40-50% of jobs within 15 years. But the actual job displacement could take longer due to corporate choices, labor union influences, and government policies.

This displacement will take place in a number of ways:

  • Direct one-for-one replacement – One AI instantiation for one person.
  • Workforce reduction due to reduced total workload – AI may do part of a job, but a human is still needed for the remaining parts of the job. However, larger corporations are likely to reduce the overall employment, roughly proportional to what percentage of the job AI can do.
  • A new model completely disrupting the company or even industry – Just like typists were not replaced by “typing robots” but by computers, a new AI application (imagine a future where loans are given from an app, then bank loans may eventually cease to exist).

Take the AI Superpowers quiz to determine if you job might be at risk.

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Dr. Lee believes many job displacement research studies are too conservative. Here is why:

  • Most studies consider only one-for-one replacements, but I think a significant number will happen with new workloads for pools and new models that disrupt industries.
  • Many studies are based on past technological breakthroughs, such as electricity or the personal computer. But AI is moving much faster than other technologies. Also, today there is a much large entrepreneurial eco-system, with entrepreneurs, VCs, and capital add historical numbers in AI and related industries.
  • AI progress will be pushed forward by both the US and China. Unlike previous technical revolutions that were only driven by one country – the US.
  • Some studies look at near term as 2020, which is too soon. In the shorter term, there are many people jumping into the AI industry, thereby adding to employment numbers, and many of AI’s largest displacements will take longer to materialize. We may very well see AI creating jobs more than it replaces in the next few years, but it is only for the short term, and a one-time phenomenon.

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What are the jobs that AI cannot do?

To ensure your professional career is not interrupted by AI displacement, you need to understand: What can AI not do today? There are jobs that may be safe (at least for now) from AI displacement. There are several main areas:

  1. Creativity (e.g., medical researcher, AI scientist, award winning script writer, PR expert, entrepreneur). Current AI is not good at coming up with new concepts.
  2. Complexity / strategy (e.g., CEO, negotiation expert, merger & acquisition expert) – jobs that combine understanding of multiple domains and require strategic decisions. For AI, even common sense is very difficult.
  3. Dexterity (e.g., oral surgeon, airplane mechanic, chiropractor). Robotics and mechanics actually advance slower than software AI. Robots are still very clumsy – watch a robot pick up a pencil and you’ll understand it’s current limitations.
  4. Learning new, unknown, and unstructured environments (e.g., geological survey, cleaning after conventions). Robotics work well in fixed environments (like assembly line) but are not good with new environments (like cleaning a different home every day).
  5. Compassion / human touch (e.g., social worker, special ed teacher, marriage counselor) – AI does not have the kind of EQ that humans have. Nor are people willing to “trust” a machine for many tasks that require a human touch

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AI Superpowers Shows You Which Jobs Will Stay, and Which May Go

Dr. Kai-Fu Lee shows how the employment market will change and how to adapt

AI Superpowers brings insights and logic to the delicate question of employment, and how artificial intelligence will affect workers and executives.

When it comes to job replacement, AI’s biases don’t fit the traditional one-dimensional metric of low-skill versus high-skill labor. Instead, AI creates a mixed bag of winners and losers depending on the exact content of job tasks performed.

While AI has far surpassed humans at narrow tasks that can be optimized based on data, it remains stubbornly unable to interact naturally with humans or imitate the dexterity of our fingers and limbs. It also cannot engage in cross-domain thinking on creative tasks or ones requiring complex strategy, jobs whose inputs and outcomes aren’t easily quantified.

Here are examples of jobs that are likely to be safe: criminal defense attorneys, CEOs, psychiatrists, PR directors, concierges and social workers, dog walkers, hairstylist and physical therapists, among others Jobs that may change through AI are graphic designer, legal or financial analyst, medical researcher and scientists. Jobs likely to be most affected include customer service reps, radiologists, personal tax preparers, insurance adjusters, basic translators, telemarketers and consumer loan underwriters, garment workers, fruit harvesters, truck drivers and assembly line inspectors.

AI Superpowers gives you an understanding of the jobs that are at risk, but also what it means for the economy as a whole – you will know with much more certainty what the future will bring through reading AI Superpowers, and taking the AI Superpowers quiz.

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What Others Are Saying

James Fallows

The Atlantic, author of China Airborne and Our Towns

“Kai-Fu Lee's analysis of the perils and promises of AI is clear, convincing, technically sophisticated, deeply personal, and humane. Reading this book has given me a new way to think about the technological future of China, the United States, and the world.”

Jeffrey Lehman

Vice Chancellor, NYU-Shanghai (former president, Cornell)

“The book offers a wise guide to how we, as individuals, should set our priorities each day, each month, and each year. And it offers an equally wise, global perspective on how society might build a future that harmonizes AI’s power to think with humanity’s distinctive capacities for love, service, and compassion.”

Joi Ito

Director, MIT Media Lab

“Kai-Fu Lee offers an entertaining, insightful, and sobering look at the not-so-distant future of AI and China’s role in propelling it forward. Its pages expose our smugness over our own technological prowess and urge us to think carefully about the implications of AI for society and, indeed, humanity at large.”