Artificial intelligence is growing rapidly, expanding into different businesses and our homes. Some find it exciting and others find it frightening. One of the grimmest predictions is Elon Musk's claim that “AI is a fundamental existential risk for human civilization.” A more common prediction that hits closest to home is the possibility that AI could put people out of work, a topic that came up in my independent study interviews. And while artificial intelligence will continue to replace tasks and jobs, humans can still provide value if we hone certain skills and capabilities.
I spoke with six individuals as a part of my interviews, with four working directly on AI development. During those interviews, I had a chance to learn their hopes and fears about the future of work. Most interviewees recommended that more people should get into data science or gain the programming skills to work on AI. This argument is fairly common, yet computer science education in K-12 in the US is rare compared to other countries. Even worse, it’s often taught with outdated materials. By extending computer science courses to pre-college schools, we can ensure younger generations are better equipped to work in industries with AI.
This solution does little to comfort people that have no plans to go back to school for computer science. However, I spoke with one individual that builds and uses machine learning (AI) as a part of his job, and he provided a different approach. He believes we should figure out “how [our] particular human perspective is unique and why [our] human brain is important to [our] problem.” In essence, he argues that humans need to figure out how to add value through uniquely human skills and capabilities.
If there are limits to artificial intelligence, what are they? This is a discussion many people are having, and not everyone agrees on the limitations. Some examples of skills and capabilities that could be “uniquely human” are creativity, persuasion, the motivation of others, and emotional intelligence. It’s important to note that it's possible to perform sentiment analysis using AI, which is similar to sensing emotion. But, sensing emotion is not emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is recognizing the emotion and responding with empathy. As a part of an MBA, we learn many of these skills. However, as Megan Beck and Barry Libert point out in their thought-provoking article, these skills are not often taught in our education systems. One could argue that we should be prioritizing these skills alongside computer science.
How do we ensure humans still provide value as AI becomes more prevalent? K-12 computer science education is a good step to prepare future generations. And, for everyone currently in or preparing to enter the workforce, it’s crucial to reflect on the evolving tools and new capabilities required for our shifting work environment. While artificial intelligence may replace jobs as we know them now, we can be proactive and ensure that our jobs and careers evolve with the technology.