Beyond the skills gap: Making the fourth industrial revolution work for everyone
January 22, 2019
It’s common knowledge that the current skills gap in the use of machine intelligence is enormous. What is less often discussed is that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will impact every one of our jobs in the near future, bringing with it the responsibility to make this new economy work for all, not only for the few.
Some of us will find this transition easier than others. While those of us with STEM degrees or other relevant technical experience may already be engaging with machine intelligence, the real test for the adoption of the technology will be its accessibility to laypeople. We need to make sure we are planning ahead — today — to build an inclusive economy. This revolution will only come to pass if everyone in the workforce can participate, not only those with the “right” degrees or credentials.
In addressing artificial intelligence (AI), it’s impossible to ignore the common fear that machines will take our jobs, replacing us. However, this fear is based on a raft of misconceptions, not on actual science or technological understanding. The limitations of AI are often poorly understood. As yet, we cannot create machines that think creatively or make complex ethical decisions. Despite extraordinary advances in AI, we’re not yet capable of building a machine with a conscience.
Research indicates that smart-learning systems will likely eliminate around 6% of today’s jobs, a trend consistent with previous industrial revolutions. It’s important to acknowledge that current job responsibilities will look very different as we progress in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This needn’t be a negative situation, however. It can be hugely positive.
Repetitive tasks — tasks that are most easily performed by machines — are boring to humans, consuming time that could be better spent in more productive and satisfying ways. We quickly seek out variety and creativity, precisely the tasks that are hardest to automate.
AI will have an impact on each and every one of our jobs, but that doesn’t mean it will make us obsolete. Our job responsibilities will look different in the future. We will think and act differently. But core skilled professionals should be capable of continuing to practice their professions, even if large parts of their responsibilities can be automated.
Take lawyers, for example. We are already living in an era in which lawyers deal with a vast wealth of data. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution progresses, it will no longer be realistic to expect lawyers and paralegals to fully digest, summarize and process such a massive amount of information or use it to make and influence decisions efficiently. Even today, it takes a tremendous amount of time, rendering the profession inefficient and ineffective.
Believe it or not, more data has been created in the past two years alone than ever before. Physiologically, we don’t have the time or the processing capacity to reach clear, elegant conclusions about so much information. The solution to this problem is leveraging machine intelligence to help our brains do what they can’t naturally do: process this enormous quantity of data in an egalitarian way.
Does this mean we will no longer need lawyers? Certainly not. Lawyers will definitely be part of the new economy, but their responsibilities and the way they spend time on various tasks may shift.
Currently, lawyers may spend a large amount of their time reading and summarizing precedents. What if they could reallocate that time, using it for activities that require creativity, imagination and out-of-the-box (or out-of-the-data) thinking? I’m talking about negotiation, mitigation and similar high-level tasks.
The same goes for other professions, such as accountants (machines are excellent at matching right and left data), or even data scientists (automation can play a key role in generating value from data). These professions, among many others that may not immediately appear to have a place in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, will be enhanced by AI.
I believe AI will open the door for us to focus on our hardcore expertise while allowing machines to do the heavy lifting and repetitive tasks for us. This will certainly improve the lives of many professionals, who will be relieved of daunting tasks that consume a vast amount of their time, allowing them to focus on excelling in the creative aspects of their jobs.
Another critical part of the equation is job creation. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution progresses, new skills and new jobs will emerge, offsetting those that are lost and advancing the progress of the digital skill set. In addition to the evolution of existing roles, new jobs will likely emerge, and the economy will adapt.
Here’s an example of a new profession that is already emerging: the data translator. Data translators serve as intermediaries between technical and non-technical teams. Data translators enable companies to leverage the potential of AI, harnessing data to solve top business objectives. As this role becomes ubiquitous, it will push organizations to grow and evolve.
This is a positive picture, and I believe it’s the way AI will feature in our lives. Nonetheless, we must not be complacent in the way we implement AI. Leaders need to actively take responsibility for creating new jobs and start taking care and thinking about the people who will be affected, making sure we create a smooth and efficient transition toward paths for technology.
If you’re reading this article, you’re at the vanguard of this wave of change. I encourage you to start thinking about how you can play a role in democratizing AI. As we discussed at the beginning of this article, it is essential that we figure out how to implement these new technologies in a way that invites everyone to contribute. You can play a part in spearheading these initiatives and creating the workplace of the future.
By Nir Kaldero