The widespread adoption of artificial intelligence has promised to create new jobs and make workers more productive, but these changes have come with a cost. Since 2000, automation systems have slowly phased out many manufacturing jobs — 1.7 million of them — and white-collar jobs are now also at risk of being automated into obsolescence.
Will Artificial Intelligence (AI) Replace Jobs?
AI is replacing and will continue to replace some jobs. Workers in industries ranging from healthcare to agriculture and industrial sectors can all expect to see disruptions in hiring due to AI. But demand for workers in other sectors is also expected to rise, thanks to AI.
Some experts and industry insiders, however, aren’t too worried about the rise of AI and remain unimpressed with the technology. While discussing AI models with the BBC, Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, went so far as to say, “In many ways, they’re quite stupid.” Even OpenAI founder Sam Altman believes current AI tools are “wildly overhyped.”
Don’t misunderstand, though; it isn’t that the machines aren’t rising. It’s that they’re rising much more slowly than some of the more breathless media coverage might have you believe — which is great news for most of those who think AI-powered technology will soon steal their jobs.
“Most of” being the operative words.
10 Jobs AI Will Replace
The consensus among many experts is that a number of professions will be totally automated in the next five to 10 years. Below are a few roles that are at risk of being taken over by AI in the near future.
How Many Jobs Will AI Replace?
According to the World Economic Forum’s “The Future of Jobs Report 2020,” AI is expected to replace 85 million jobs worldwide by 2025. Though that sounds scary, the report goes on to say that it will also create 97 million new jobs in that same timeframe.
Customer Service Representative
The customer service role is becoming more automated, as tools like chatbots and virtual assistants handle a broader range of customer inquiries and requests. Advancements like self-checkouts also make human workers less relevant in settings like grocery stores, reducing the number of jobs within the customer service industry.
Car and Truck Driver
Improvements in autonomous vehicles reduce the need for human drivers, impacting those in both the taxi and rideshare industries. In fact, Uber has partnered with self-driving car companies like Waymo and Aurora to give its riders more options, potentially setting up a conflict with its human drivers.
Generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Bard have raised questions about whether AI will replace writing-heavy jobs. While human language requires much more creativity and nuance, programming consists of more structured, straightforward language. ChatGPT can already be used to write code, so entry-level programming jobs may soon succumb to automation.
Research-centric positions like market research analyst and financial analyst can be performed, at least to a degree, by AI. Machine learning has the ability to process large volumes of data, detect patterns and organize its findings into convenient visuals. This makes AI ideal for quickly delivering industry insights to teams without the need for human intervention.
Many administrative tasks completed by paralegals are within the range of AI’s capabilities. With its ability to process massive amounts of complex data, AI can write legal reports, gather facts for a case, sort through documents and conduct legal research. This promises greater efficiency for legal firms, perhaps one day rendering the paralegal role obsolete.
Factory or Warehouse Worker
AI powers lots of machines in factories, performing many actions with greater speed and consistency than humans. Additionally, machine vision enables AI-powered machines in warehouses to retrieve goods and navigate their surroundings, making logistics providers less dependent on human warehouse workers.
Financial traders are in charge of analyzing markets and informing investors’ decisions, but AI can work through this process much faster. AI trading technologies can also predict market trends while remaining more accurate than human workers. These two factors combined with the fact that AI lowers hiring costs mean financial trader roles could disappear soon.
Travelers no longer need to rely on travel agents for personalized recommendations and travel tips. Travel platforms can leverage AI to power customer searches and make suggestions based on previous searches. Experiences like virtual tours and online informational videos also allow travelers to gather the information they want without turning to a travel agency.
Content Writer (In Some Cases)
AI content generators can already help brainstorm writing ideas and assist with repetitive content creation. Basic content marketing tasks like writing formulaic emails and short social media posts are no trouble for artificial intelligence. In some cases, AI can even produce a first draft for longer-form content, taking over many duties for human content marketers.
Graphic designers are in direct competition with AI-generated art, especially since the ability to produce this kind of art is available to the public. Tools like Lensa and DALL-E make it easy to create professional images without artistic expertise. As a result, businesses and individuals may depend less on graphic design services to produce eye-catching visuals moving forward.
9 Jobs AI Won’t Replace
We can take comfort in the fact that some jobs are less likely to be replaced by AI. The jobs that AI won’t be able to replicate range from creative fields to empathic jobs, as well as complex strategic jobs.
AI-powered tools have made gains in the classroom, guiding small-group interactions and helping children grow their socio-emotional skills. But AI can’t build the trust and intimacy that human teachers are able to have with their students. Human teachers may also be more equipped to resolve arguments, reach out to students’ parents and handle other complex social interactions.
Simple healthcare tasks like transporting medical supplies and retrieving patient data may fall to artificial intelligence. It’s the face-to-face interactions where a human touch is essential. Providing bedside care, having hard conversations with families and assuaging the fears of patients are all situations where nurses and other health workers may be preferred over AI.
Social workers probably won’t be replaced by AI anytime soon. The work they engage in — often with people from underserved or at-risk populations — requires a human touch and judgment. Understanding people’s unique circumstances and helping them navigate stressful situations are areas humans may be better prepared for than artificial intelligence.
Therapists perform a great deal of emotional labor, listening to people’s problems and guiding them as they work through their feelings, thoughts and emotional responses. AI doesn’t have the ability to grasp this aspect of humans to such a degree. And with a mental health crisis on the rise, human-led therapy is more crucial than ever to aid those who feel stuck or isolated.
People who work in the trades, like plumbers and electricians, often have to perform a range of manual labor and handle more in-depth human interactions — two things AI doesn’t excel at. Plumbers, for example, have to demonstrate excellent eye-hand coordination to handle different appliances while displaying the soft skills needed to work with residents to resolve issues when relevant.
Although AI has become a major part of the legal industry, it’s unlikely to replace lawyers any time soon. Lawyers are expected to possess a strong grasp of morals and ethics, relying on this knowledge to inform their legal advice. AI giving legal advice raises many ethical questions since AI doesn’t have the same sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ as humans.
HR specialists oversee areas like recruiting, interviewing and onboarding — all processes that require high levels of personalized, human interactions. AI might be useful for screening resumes, but it may not be able to offer the kind of sensitivity and thoughtfulness required to navigate situations like layoffs, private questions about benefits and employee complaints.
Despite enjoying a boom in popularity, AI writing tools struggle to match the quality and creativity of talented human writers. Copywriters, UX writers and technical writers alike routinely exercise critical thinking in their work, such as making decisions based on audience preferences and needs. While AI tools can assist with generating ideas, the quirks of writing and human language are much harder to master.
AI art generators are skilled at producing high-quality pieces, but these pieces are only based on artworks and styles that already exist. Human artists are the ones who develop new styles and ideas that drive innovation within the artistic landscape. The livelihoods of artists will still be impacted by AI, but artistic originality resides with humans.
Benefits of AI in the Workplace
Despite fears of job loss due to automation, AI does offer major advantages to companies and workers who embrace the technology.
More Focused and Engaging Tasks
Among AI’s biggest boons, many experts believe, is its ability to save humans from having to perform tedious repetitive tasks that are part of their overall duties so they’re free to focus on more complex and rewarding projects — or just take some much-needed time off.
“There’s always a concern that technology is displacing this current body of workers or tasks, and that’s true,” Sean Chou, co-founder of AI startup Catalytic, said. “But what always happens is that work, and that output, gets redirected to things that are much more productive.”
More Efficient and Shorter Workdays
Some think increased productivity and efficiency might even shorten the work week. Which seems good in theory but comes with its own set of issues. Namely: how will pay and benefits be affected? And who reaps the bulk of monetary rewards? Those remain unanswered questions.
“Up to this point, technology has created more work because it’s another thing you have to deal with,” said Justin Adams, former CEO at Digitize.AI and vice president at its parent company Waystar. “But I think there’s an inflection point where certain AI will get to a place where that actually flips.”
How AI Will Create Jobs
The development of AI itself requires many humans to train and refine AI algorithms. This leads to the creation of roles that haven’t existed until now. Machine learning engineers must design and oversee AI systems while AI ethics specialists ensure AI is deployed responsibly.
Chou confirms the necessity for human workers. “The number of people that are necessary to deliver better and better technology grows massively,” Chou said. “So you move from worrying about the impact of high technology to actually helping to create the technology. When you look at AI, there’s this nonstop need for training, for data, for maintenance, for taking care of all the exceptions that are happening. How do we monitor AI? How do we train it? How do we make sure that AI’s not running amok? Those are all going to become new jobs.”
Rather than completely destroying jobs, AI is shifting jobs and changing the type of work that professionals do. It’s the kind of impact that the internet had upon its introduction. Chris Nicholson, CEO of machine learning company Skymind.AI, shares a similar view rooted in even more distant history.
“Everybody uses this analogy, but when the Industrial Revolution came, a certain kind of job disappeared,” Nicholson said. “But many jobs, and many [new] jobs, were created. So when you think about, say, England before and after the Industrial Revolution, it wasn’t a poorer place where there was less work. There was a lot more work, but it was a different kind of work.”
How to Prepare for AI in the Workplace
Amazon — whose warehouses buzz with AI-powered machines and will be increasingly automated in years to come — announced that it would retrain 300,000 employees to the tune of $1.2 billion. Participation is voluntary in a program the company calls “Upskilling 2025,” which is designed to teach employees skills they can apply to work in technical roles inside or outside of Amazon.
Skills to Cultivate in the Age of AI
- Basic mathematics
- Strong verbal and written communication
- People management
- Emotional intelligence
- Critical thinking and problem-solving
More cynical observers might chalk that up to an expensive public relations campaign in light of less-than-flattering reports about how the company allegedly treats its workers. Besides that, Chou said, it’s infeasible. Why not simply make technology that’s more adaptable to more people, he wonders, so the learning curve is much lower? Retraining warehouse workers to be, say, engineers is completely unrealistic. Which isn’t to say there’s no value in additional education.
“I think that we should be trying to get people to understand a little bit about a lot of things so the jump is not very large and the opportunities come,” said Dan Platt, senior principal of market innovation at AI company Narrative Science. “You’re not going to train everybody to write in Python, but if you have people that are trained to understand the basics of engineering, or how things work, their chances [of not being displaced] are a lot higher.”
For Nicholson, surviving and thriving in an increasingly AI-powered world requires a multi-pronged approach. First and foremost, he advises, “Avoid bullshit jobs. If you’re bored in your job, it’s probably a bullshit job and the machines will probably eat it.”
Beyond that, his practical recommendations are surprisingly tech-less. And they can be summed up in two words: basic skills. For example, having solid verbal and written communication like listening, reading emotions, asking questions, writing clearly and structuring cogent arguments devoid of ambiguity.
“That’s all very important,” he said, “and it’s also very hard for machines to do. Barring a nuclear holocaust, there will be no lack of humans who need to be communicated with.”
It’s also a good idea, Nicholson says, to cultivate a decent understanding of statistical concepts, calculus and algebraic linear regression in order to comprehend the “output of AI algorithms.” Arming oneself with that sort of foundational knowledge is key to “being able to adapt.” And in these tech-driven times, adaptation has no patience for slow pokes.
“People like to compare AI to electricity,” Chou said. “And I actually agree with that analogy. But electricity took one or two generations to go from idea to widespread adoption, whereas today we’re seeing the impact of technology occur much faster. And so the rate of fundamental social change is increasing, and it’s taking a toll faster than people are ready and able to adapt.”
But in order to survive and thrive, they must. And so, while big change is coming, a little advance planning — by workers who stand to be replaced and the companies that employ them — goes a long way.
Frequently Asked Questions
What jobs will AI replace?
AI will replace both blue-collar and white-collar jobs that involve more straightforward and repetitive tasks. These jobs include drivers, factory workers, administrative assistants, paralegals and some copywriters.
What jobs are safe from AI?
Jobs that involve more complex tasks and human interaction are mostly safe from AI. This includes teachers, nurses, therapists and people in the trades.
What jobs will AI create?
Human workers are required to train and develop AI systems. Machine learning engineer, AI ethics specialist and AI and cybersecurity researcher are a few examples of jobs AI will create.