Some jobs will be displaced by AI, some will be augmented

There is a lot of talk, when you research this AI subject, about the chasm between how ‘low skill, low wage’ jobs and ‘high skill, high wage’ jobs will be affected. In the same way that every article you read starts with talk of Watson / Jeopardy and killer robots, the press tend to focus on those who will ‘survive’ in work – at least for a while and those who will not.

There will be jobs displaced, jobs created and some roles will be augmented. Since I have covered in other articles the potential for significant layoffs as a result of Artificial Intelligence, I wanted to look at the other side. One question which does not appear to have been answered fully is what will life be like for those who keep their jobs?

What does working life look like for people whose jobs are augmented by AI ?

There are a few examples of how things might look for those working in a role which is augmented by AI. They serve as useful harbingers.

Jobs (or bits of jobs) which involve curating, sorting and filtering significant bodies of information are the consistent theme in those which will be most affected. AI should help us make better decisions in many areas of our lives and save us effort too.

Simple old office work will be easier

I work in a Digital Futures function for a bank. We consider large amounts of information to make the suggestions and decisions we do as to strategic approaches and concepts to prototype. I took my job in the hope and belief that it will be safer than most when it comes to being replaced by a computer. AI will likely help us see further and make better decisions in our roles as strategists.

  • Information workers will work faster. They / we will be able to use AI to do the heavy lifting of information work.  Smart virtual assistants (AI applications) will remind us of things we’ve forgotten to do, automate tasks we don’t like and help us balance our work and social lives. They could even reply to simple email messages on our behalf.
  • Innovators will see further. AI programs will help us innovate by removing cognitive bias from decisions, like which idea is most likely to succeed if we prototype it. Some suggest AI will help us innovate exponentially . There is even talk from those who believe that those of us augmented and not displaced will become ‘superhuman’ as a result of AI implementations.
  • Lawyers are already being helped. AI software filters huge quantities of information to provide relevant case studies and precedents for lawyers. This work used to be done by expensive paralegals. It’s now quicker and lowers the price of ‘justice,’ potentially, to the point that people can afford it who previously could not.

Soldiers might be safer

National defence is key to all of us and the safety of soldiers (at least the ones on ‘our’ side) is something we all agree on. AI already plays an important role in the military. In the future it will save lives.

  • Soldiers might be safer. Artificially intelligent agents might even protect person nell when we are in danger. There are military applications aplenty fo AI- for example, supporting a soldier on a battlefield.
  • Artificial Intelligence is already used in the military: In situations where a single Naval officer in the US military is faced with a large number of incoming threats at one time. In circumstances where more than 50 missiles are coming in to a map, AI can assist in prioritising the threats so commanders can deal with what they are seeing. The alternative, analysis paralysis, is far less appealing.
  • AI is also being used to protect our information borders, fending off hackers from around the world – and especially China.

One interesting (and threatening) idea is the threat of the ‘other side’ having better information and technology than we do. Will the next arms race be a processing and algorithm race ?

Healthcare will work better

Healthcare is a service we all use . It will become more important as the population ages. Treating healthcare as an information problem, involving correlation between huge data sets like age, genetic structures and drug efficacy is something computers can do a great deal better than we can.

  • Doctors will be more effective. AI will help doctors make faster and more accurate diagnoses. Closing the loop through diagnosis to treatment and cure / failure will create an ever improving loop of effective medicine. At some point in the not too distant future, artificial intelligence will also add consideration of your genomic profile to the mix further improving results.

The economy might work better

I once laughed out loud when I heard someone on the radio analogise about the way economists ‘play’ with the economy. The commentator pointed out that if doctors played with viruses in the way economists mess with the economy (without a clear causal link between action and result) we would be livid. I think that’s true. Maybe AI can help us.

  • Monetary policy is set by economists who have to analyse a number of different data sets which relate to trends in macroeconomic variables. Artificial intelligence is helping them trawl through all this data to find significant correlations so they can better judge their next move.

Looking for a dropped key

There’s a useful analogy for some of these things. At the moment, we are making the best decisions we can with the information we have. It’s a bit like looking for a key you dropped on to the ground on your way home from the pub in a street with only one streetlight. The natural place to look for the key is under the light. It’s the only place you’ll see the key. But it doesn’t mean the key’s there.

Including more data than we have now in the decisions we make seems likely to improve the decisions we make and positively impact every role. When you think about it, AI is far less threatening when viewed through this lens.