What Will We Do After AI Takes Our Jobs?

Christopher Mims predicts that artificial intelligence will increasingly put white collar, professional workers out of work. That means people who blog. 🙂 Muriel Clauson, of Singularity University, says “Education is often touted as the answer to the skills gap, but it is generally a blunt instrument.” She recommends this system:

First, break down every job into the smallest tasks. Then, figure out which of those tasks can be automated. The jobs that include those tasks are the ones at risk.

Second, assess what skills each person has, and compare those skills with the tasks, across all of the jobs, that can’t be automated. That would give you a pretty good idea of how to match up people with the remaining jobs. Each person would probably be missing a few of the tasks for any given job, so this “task mapping” assessment system would tell you how to design universities and other educational organizations.

I’ve always been nervous about designing education based on what jobs currently exist. It’s because today’s jobs are always going away, or transforming, and new jobs are emerging all the time. Those new jobs often involve new “tasks” that wouldn’t show up using any system based on today’s jobs. So the real challenge faced by education reformers, and education researchers like myself, is: What are the deeper, higher level skills that apply broadly across a wide range of tasks? Those are the skills that make you adaptable, ready to grow and change with the economy.

2 thoughts on “What Will We Do After AI Takes Our Jobs?

  1. 1. Muriel Clauson’s ideas sound very interesting and useful if the details could be worked out. I was just thinking about how robots would be replacing jobs, after a friend’s son said that his work was to copy information “from one monitor to another” – an incredibly boring job, adding typos to information that could more easily be piped from one database to another one, behind the scenes. Humans could do other parts of the job, like making sure that columns of data aren’t switched. When shopping, competition between stores and demand / supply natural forces tend to give the shopper better products they want at lower prices. I wondered, and doubted, whether this would work with jobs. Muriel Clauson’s ideas sound like a good way to match up people better, by finding smaller detailed niches for them and identifying who matches up these niches.

    This might be a valuable addition to pre-college career counseling. For instance, testing for high spatial abilities should lead those with high spatial abilities toward videos and desriptions of jobs in those fields, while encouraging them to pursue them. This might also help fill the gap in STEM jobs, by alerting younger students to interesting fields that exist.

    2. Prophesying New Jobs – As you said, it’s hard to predict how jobs will work out in the future. I remember as a child finding it impossible to draw large pictures; I could only draw small ones, even if the paper was large. Later, I had multiple interests that scattered over a broad range of topics. Suddenly, they all gathered together into making websites and digital art, something that hadn’t existed until after I had graduated! Now, this brought together miniature art, image processing, audio recording, scripting (programming), and design of pathways.

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