Earlier this year, Gatekeeper examined the views of aspiring students on the rise of Artificial Intelligence and automation and the likely impact on their future employment prospects.
Recent news and media coverage has focused on the prospects of AI replacing humans in a variety of areas of work including Law, Medicine, Manufacturing, Financial Services and many more.
While a lot of that coverage conflates “Artificial Intelligence” with “Automation”, it’s obvious that technological advancement will make for a very different workplace in the next 5-10 years.
Given this potentially challenging future work environment, the specific question we asked students was:
“How are AI and automation software changing students’ expectations about their future employment?”
We received more than 50 responses to the question, with many describing a dystopian future where machines have rendered human input unnecessary or where students haven't yet awoken to the threat of AI to their expected futures.
However, many responses found a more measured outlook where AI can be a complementary tool in many fields of work and lead to improved performance, insight and accuracy.
Indeed, at Gatekeeper, AI and Automation form key parts of our solution, enabling our customers to spend less time on repetitive tasks and more time on the judgement-based, value-adding activities that their training and experience qualifies them for.
We help customers harness the power of AI and deploy it to save time, drive cost savings and maintain compliance across their contracts and vendors.
Three notable quotes from across the submitted essays include:
- “In order to fully understand how automation and AI may play a role in shaping students’ expectations about their future employment, we need to first understand the role that automation and AI play in the shaping of the job market.
Jobs are an integral part of society that keeps the hamster wheel of the economy turning. Automation threatens to remove many people from this hamster wheel in the search of greater profit margins.
Automation and AI threaten so many jobs because they allow companies to reduce the cost associated with employing human labor: fatigue, errors, wages, etc. Simply put, a job that is automated is likely to become more precise, see increased production, and likely to experience an increased amount of accuracy and efficiency.“
- “I don’t believe this topic is on the minds of a majority of adults, let alone students preparing to make decisions about their future.
This uncertainty should have lawmakers talking and this topic should reach a national level discussion. Not in a sense of how to stop it, but how to find a solution to the deteriorating job market, by retraining and reeducation initiatives, and by putting a spotlight on other growing industries.
AI and automation should bring efficiency to our way of life, but it must be careful not to completely destroy it - we must find a balance in order to avoid pitting man against machine. We need to embrace the change and find an equilibrium, a place of harmony.“
- “More students will have to learn how to cooperate with AI. Instead of seeing - AI as a threat for taking our jobs we should start comprehending it as what it is and why it’s here in the first place.
Yes, AI may be diminishing some jobs but we should consider that as of now, it has only been capable of taking over the easiest and minimalistic skilled jobs such as ordering food at a fast food restaurant.
Additionally we must acknowledge the wide variety of new jobs that it has created and the ways it has helped big fields such as medicine advance in ways we could have never accomplished without technology.”
These quotes capture some of the tension between the possible "worst case" scenarios and the more positive view on what AI can bring in terms of the future and in particular, the job market.
However, we were obliged to select a winner from across the submissions, who will receive $1,000 towards their tuition. And that winner was Kelly Doan, from MIT.
Kelly's essay was as follows:
"We are living in a special time of human history, when innovation technologies are constantly changing the way we think, live, work and communicate. Among them, Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation software are rapid-growing technologies that have great potential to transform the modern world by reshaping transportation, healthcare, science, finance, military and many others industries.
In a study from Cornell University, researchers predict AI will outperform humans in many activities in the next ten years, such as translating languages (by 2024), writing high-school essays (by 2026), driving a truck (by 2027), working in retail (by 2031), writing a bestselling book (by 2049) and working as a surgeon (by 2053) (1).
According to 2018 Future of Job report from World Economy Forum (WEF), the nature of work is already changed by AI and other related technologies, and the pace of change will accelerate even more in the next five years (2).
On the global scale, leading companies are adopting and integrating new and emerging technologies to innovate and create cutting edge products and expand businesses at greater efficiency.
Notable is the rapid shift between tasks performed by humans and those performed by machines and algorithms. In response to that, global labour markets are undergoing major transformations. Some roles such as Analysts and Scientists, Applications Developers and Ecommerce Specialists are already experiencing increases in demand. On the other end of the spectrum, jobs such as cashiers, accountants, auditors, underwriters, bank tellers or librarians are already in noticeable decline.
For students who will graduate few years from now, this news can be both exciting and terrifying at the same time. By the time when they graduate, will the major that they are pursuing still be relevant and how will it affect their employment prospects?
I recalled, seven years ago, when I just graduated from university with a degree in electronic engineering, it never crossed my mind that electronic engineering would only be a small part of my professional career. Over the years, I gradually moved from designing and making electronic circuits to broader product development life cycle and entire supply chain. Fast forward to today, I am pursuing a Master Degree of Applied Science in Supply Chain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The curriculum comprises not only main supply chain topics, but also compulsory courses on Programming, Machine Learnings and Data Science. After graduating, I expect to find employment opportunities in not only logistics and supply chain, but many others industries, from consulting to healthcare, pharmaceutical, automobile and manufacturing. Reflecting back, it is astonishing to see the change of my employment expectation in just seven years, from being very narrowly focus on a set of skills in a specific industry to developing the capability to utilize AI and automation software to enhance outputs and productivity across many industries.
This shift of mind-set aligns with one of the key findings from the WEF report regarding the change in employment type. Nowadays, businesses expect to extend their workforce to new productivity- enhancing roles, with AI and automation software supporting decision making process.
For current students, that means besides building the necessary foundational skills and knowledge in their major, it is also equally important to learn and understand how to leverage and apply automation and AI to effectively achieve the desired outcomes.
For example, students pursuing a degree in Medicine and Healthcare should also learn how machine learning and automation software can assist them in medical practices.
In recent years, AI application in healthcare has been researched and developed intensively, current AI is capable of diagnosing disease accurately and tracking patient’s heart rate, respiration, and other vital functions. Such applications for clinical decision support are already being implemented in organisations all over the world and the results so far have been encouraging (3).
Another example is in the consumer goods industry. In the past few years, AI is one of several disruptive technologies that leading consumers goods companies use to gain competitive advantage.
One of the sales and marketing strategies that has become familiar to the public is personalised products recommendation. It is an algorithm that collect information and perform on assessments of consumers’ buying patterns and product preferences, and then formulates recommendations in an effort to generate more sales, at the same time make the shopping experience more relevant and satisfying to consumers (4).
For students who major in Sales and Marketing, it is vital for them to understand the potential and limitations of AI applications to gain insight into consumers’ needs and demands in order to drive grow and gain market share.
In entertainment, online AI tools such as MuseNet can generate songs with as many as ten instruments and music in fifteen different styles (5). The software works by using deep neural networks that have been trained on data files of many music genres from classical, folk to contemporary ones such as pop and hip hop. Artists around the globe are already using AI to aid them to create music.
AI generated music is all around us. A quick five-minute search on Youtube results in hundreds of songs composed entirely by AI. So to students who want a career in music and entertainment industry, it is reasonable to expect that their future careers will not be limited to only physical instruments, but many automated software and AI tools will be at their disposal to help them unleash their creativity.
In summary, AI and automation software are no doubt impacting almost every aspect of daily life. It is one of main drivers for the transformation of the global workforce. To current students, this change brings uncertainty to their future employment prospect, but at the same time, also opens up many opportunities.
Students should expect routine-based, repetitive, task-oriented jobs will decline and be replaced by more value-added, creative, outcome-based ones. In order to be able to perform in such roles, students must understand and develop the capability to utilize leading technologies such as AI and automation as supporting tools to solve problems, make better decisions and achieve the desire outcomes from their jobs.
Last but not least, as the pace of changes are likely to accelerate, in order to stay relevant, students should develop a continuous improvement and lifelong learning mind-set. Education doesn’t stop after graduation; it is just a beginning."
- Cornell University, “When Will AI Exceed Human Performance? Evidence from AI Experts” Katja Grace, John Salvatier, Allan Dafoe, Baobao Zhang, Owain Evans https://arxiv.org/pdf/1705.08807
- World Economic Forum, Insight Report, The Future of Jobs Report 2018 http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2018.pdf>http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs_2018.pdf
- Artificial Intelligence in Medicine, Are We Ready for Robotic Doctors? By Dealla Smith Rn, Clinical Marketing Manager, May 24, 2017 https://orionhealth.com/nz/knowledge-hub/blogs/artificial-intelligence-in-medicine/
- The adoption of disruptive technologies in the consumer products industry By Barb Renner, Curt Fedder, Jagadish Upadhyaya. https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/industry/retail-distribution/potential-of- artificial-intelligence-consumer-products.html
- OpenAI’s MuseNet generates AI music at the push of a button https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/26/18517803/openai-musenet-artificial-intelligence-ai- music-generation-lady-gaga-harry-potter-mozart
Our thanks go to Kelly and to all the other students who took the time to write and submit an essay.