The Impending Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Work Force

Posted by: Jeff Landine and John Stewart on avril 23, 2019 2:50

Throughout our research, we have found that there is nothing more embedded into our lives than career.  As we contribute to the Counselling Connect Blog, our intention is to explicate, using a mix of research and reflective opinions, some of the dynamics that impact career. We start with a consideration of Artificial Intelligence (AI).  AI is a branch of computer science that focuses on programing computers with the ability to resemble intelligent behaviors including learning, reasoning, planning, observing and/or processing language.  We think this blog, plus several future blogs, will inform career counsellors in two ways: understanding the impact of AI on careers; and counselling clients entering the workforce, or who are displaced due to AI innovations. As a disclaimer, our expertise lies in the realm of Career Psychology and not in AI; however, we are doing a lot of reading on the subject.  In this blog, we want to examine some of the proposed advantages and disadvantages concerning the impact of AI on future job availability.

Recent advancements in AI suggest that we are in a “fourth industrial revolution,” but with significantly more implications than previous revolutions. We think there is no doubt that AI will take over some jobs due to such technological innovations as robotics, machine learning, and 3-D printing; and through the impact of AI on manufacturing, retail jobs, and in other domains such as legal and medical.  It seems that the question is not when, but how rapidly and profoundly automation will change the workplace.  Many think that AI will displace most jobs requiring manual and routine labour – machines can do it faster and with more accuracy. Further, with the advent of self-driving vehicles, many truck drivers, couriers and taxis will be displaced. Recent developments in diagnostic work using computers will impact the medical profession. Currently computers can diagnose abnormalities in x-rays with as much accuracy as radiologists.

On the positive side, AI can be an aid to workers.  Instead of fearing that robots and AI might reach a “singularity” and replace workers, “multiplicity” proposes that humans will work with machines to solve problems and develop leading-edge technology.  Automation will create new jobs not presently conceived of, just as personal computers did in the past. For example, in Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI, Paul Daugherty and Jim Wilson envision two categories of workers – explainers and trainers, both illustrating the idea of intelligence augmentation, that AI systems can be designed to augment human work behavior.  Explainers will help humans work with machines and trainers will develop AI systems to do workplace tasks.  For example, explainers will work in clarifying decisions made by computer algorithms and explaining them to supervisors and executives. And presently, trainers are developing chatbots that, in response to human consumers, will continue to improve on language recognition to better serve them.

In conclusion, we think that the outlook will be more favourable than bleak. Certainly, there will be job changes and job loss.  However, jobs taken over by machines will not diminish the work to be done. Quite the contrary, just as electronics and information technology created more jobs than were lost, AI will do the same.  We see several implications for career counsellors and their practice.  At the present we do not see counsellors being replaced by chatbots/robots due to the need for client empathy, something that AI has not been able to simulate yet. However, it is our opinion that the information that informs the practice will need to be upgraded on a regular basis.  Most likely, this information will be dispensed by a chatbot or other a computer programmed to process human speech. Counsellors will need some degree of understanding to help clients process the changing aspects of the skills/tasks need in some work domains such as business, management, medicine, and law.  Counsellors will need to upgrade regularly their knowledge of new jobs created from advances in AI, including their location, and the entrance requirements of educational programs and their costs leading to employment in these jobs.

Jeff Landine and John Stewart
Faculty of Education, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, N.B.

The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. The Fourth is fusing together technologies that are blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.
Suggested Readings:
Daughterty, P. R. and H. J. Wilson (2018). Human + machine: reimaging work in the age of AI. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.
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*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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