5 Years to a New World: AI and the Future of Jobs

By 2022, artificial intelligence and related technologies will change the jobs people do and the people who do the jobs.

Anyone who believes the Fourth Industrial Revolution powered by artificial intelligence (AI) is still off in some distant science fiction landscape needs to take a gander at Future of Jobs Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum, based in Switzerland.

The report based on a survey of executives at more than 300 global companies finds that the workplace is expected to change dramatically between 2018 and 2022 by four technologies: "ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet; artificial intelligence; widespread adoption of big data analytics; and cloud technology."

In five years the report predicts business will be expanding their current adoption of IoT. "Machine learning and virtual reality are poised to likewise receive considerable business investment," the report states.

AI and the related technologies are changing the nature of work right now and trends that will impact employment and unemployment will accelerate during the next five years. In the time it takes a newborn to be ready to start kindergarten, the world they are being educated to live in will have changed dramatically.

By the time the college class of 2018 graduates, they will be entering a transformed workplace unlike any their parents or grandparents ever knew. When selecting majors, it's not too soon to consider the kinds of jobs the report predicts will be in demand in five years:

  • Data Analysts and Scientists
  • AI and Machine Learning Specialists
  • Big Data Specialists
  • Process Automation Experts
  • Information Security Analysts
  • User Experience and Human-Machine Interaction Designers
  • Robotics Engineers
  • Blockchain Specialists
  • Software and Applications Developers
  • Ecommerce Specialists
  • Social Media Specialists

However, students with a less technical orientation need not despair. "Also expected to grow are roles that leverage distinctively 'human' skills, such as Customer Service Workers, Sales and Marketing Professionals, Training and Development, People and Culture, and Organizational Development Specialists as well as Innovation Managers," the report states.

While teenagers have time to adjust their majors and their expectations, their older siblings and still-working parents may need to look at what the report refers to as "reskilling and upskilling." There are some current jobs such as data entry and payroll processing that with the expansion of AI technology are going to become obsolete.

"Nearly 50 percent of companies expect that automation will lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce by 2022, based on the job profiles of their employee base today," the report states. "However, 38 percent of businesses surveyed expect to extend their workforce to new productivity-enhancing roles, and more than a quarter expect automation to lead to the creation of new roles in their enterprise. In addition, businesses are set to expand their use of contractors doing task-specialized work...."

There may actually be a net gain on the jobs front. While it is being admittedly optimistic the World Economic Forum predicts: "current estimates would suggest a decline of 0.98 million jobs and a gain of 1.74 million jobs." Workers looking to the near future will want to be in the latter category.

Corporations and government may do some of the retraining of the current workforce but current planning for that seems somewhat sketchy based on the executives surveyed. The report notes that "nearly a quarter of companies are undecided or unlikely to pursue the retraining of existing employees, and two-thirds expect workers to adapt and pick up skills in the course of their changing jobs."

If you really want to thrive in the new AI world, you may be able to take advantage of on-the-job training programs. But the report doesn't indicate that you can count on that so you may need to find a way to upskill yourself.