There is no shortage of angst when it comes to the impact of AI on jobs. For example, a survey by Pew Research Internet finds Americans are roughly twice as likely to express worry (72%) than enthusiasm (33%) about a future in which robots and computers are capable of doing many jobs that are currently done by humans.
However, at least one set of experts believes jobs will be shredded, but not eliminated. Instead of worrying about job losses, executives should be helping to reduce jobs in which AI and machine learning take over boring tasks, while humans spend more time with higher-level tasks.
That’s the word from Erik Brynjolfsson and Daniel Rock, with MIT, and Tom Mitchell of Carnegie Mellon University, who point out that the impact of machine learning, the self-programming, self-adjusting core of AI, on jobs. is iffy. “ML will affect very different parts of the workforce than earlier waves of automation,” they state in a recent paper . Instead, automation will occur on a task-by-task basis.
“Tasks within jobs typically show considerable variability in ‘suitability for machine learning’ while few — if any — jobs can be fully automated using machine learning,” they continue. “Machine learning technology can transform many jobs in the economy, but full automation will be less significant than the reengineering of processes and the reorganization of tasks.”
What jobs are most likely to see tasks handled by AI or machine learning? Oddly enough, funeral directors rank high on the automatible list. Here are the roles Brynjolfsson and his co-authors identify as top candidates for machine learning:
- Mechanical drafters
- Morticians, undertakers, and funeral directors
- Credit authorizers
- Brokerage clerks
And the jobs least likely to be shredded by AI/machine learning:
- Massage therapists
- Animal scientists
- Public address system and other announcers
- Plasterers and stucco masons
Brynjolfsson and his colleagues say we’re having the wrong debate when it comes to AI: instead of pondering how jobs will be wiped out, people need to focus on “the redesign of jobs and reengineering of business processes.” While AI and machine learning will be everywhere, the suitability for machine learning of work tasks varies greatly.” The high and low suitability-for-machine-learning tasks within a job can be separated and re-bundled.”
Dr. Irving Wladawsky-Berger, former IBM mover and shaker and now one of the most informed observers of the digital economy, provided perspective on the Brynjolfsson report, noting that some of job activities “are more susceptible to automation, while others require judgement, social skills and other hard-to-automate human capabilities. But just because some of the activities in a job have been automated, does not imply that the whole job has disappeared.” To the contrary, he continues, “automating parts of a job will often increase the productivity and quality of workers by complementing their skills with machines and computers, as well as enabling them to focus on those aspect of the job that most need their attention.” […]