Kai-Fu Lee, renowned AI expert, explores a world run by intelligent machines, and offers his view of the 10 jobs that are safe in an AI world, and why.
10 Jobs That Are Safe in an AI World
With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), many of us non androids have become fearful of massive job displacement, and for good reason. We know that AI already powers many of our favorite apps and websites and that, in the not so distant future, AI will also be operating our cars, managing our work portfolios, and manufacturing the things we buy.
Fear of the toll that AI might take on job security is substantiated. As I point out in my new book, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, about 50% of our jobs will, in fact, be taken over by AI and automation within the next 15 years. Accountants, factory workers, truckers, paralegals, and radiologists — just to name a few — will be confronted by a disruption akin to that faced by farmers during the industrial revolution. As research suggests, the pace in which AI will replace jobs will only accelerate, impacting the highly trained and poorly educated alike.
While this is partly a warning of things to come, my real hope is to convey that there are still many important jobs that will be safe from AI infiltration. Remember: AI is powerful and adaptable, but it can’t do everything that humans do. Below are some of AI’s weaknesses in job performance:
- AI cannot create, conceptualize, or manage complex strategic planning.
- AI cannot accomplish complex work that requires precise hand-eye coordination.
- AI cannot deal with unknown and unstructured spaces, especially ones that it hasn’t observed.
- AI cannot, unlike humans, feel or interact with empathy and compassion; therefore, it is unlikely that humans would opt for interacting with an apathetic robot for traditional communication services.
Given AI’s limitations when it comes to performing humanistic tasks — tasks that are personal, creative, and compassionate — these are the jobs that will be safe from displacement. Many of these jobs will call for a human-AI symbiosis, in which AI will take care of routine optimization tasks in tandem with humans, who will carry out tasks that require warmth and compassion.
If you’re worried about AI replacing your job, here is a list of 10 professions that will be safe from AI in the next 15 years. The list is based on my 38 years of work in AI research, products, business, and investment.
Psychiatry, social work, and marriage counseling are all professions that require strong communication skills, empathy, and the ability to win trust from clients. These positions require keen emotional intelligence, professionals who are capable of communicating with patients, consoling patients in times of trauma, and providing long-term support. These are all weaknesses for machines.
Dexterity is a challenge for AI. Physical therapy, as well as chiropractic and massage therapy, involves applying very delicate pressures with our hands and being able to detect minute responses from a client’s body. In addition, therapists of all kinds are tasked with customizing care for their clients, avoiding accidentally hurting a client, and providing ongoing, professional, person-to-person interaction. These essential features of therapy make this profession inherently humanistic, and not fit for AI.
The healthcare industry is expected to grow substantially due to increased income, greater health benefits, AI lowering the cost of care, and an aging population who require more care. Many of these factors will foster a symbiotic relationship between humans and AI, which can help with the analytical and administrative aspects of healthcare. Healthcare professionals like doctors and nurses will still be necessary to carry out the features of care fueled by compassion, support, and encouragement.
AI-related research and engineering
As AI grows, there will naturally be a jump in the number of AI professionals. Gartner Research Company estimates that in the next few years, these increases will outnumber the jobs replaced. However, as AI technology improves, some entry-level AI positions will also become automated. AI professionals will need to keep up with the changes caused by AI just as, in recent years, software engineers have had to learn about assembly language, high-level language, object-oriented programming, mobile programming, and now AI programming.
Storytelling requires one of the highest levels of creativity, and one which AI will have difficulty emulating. Writers ideate, create, engage, and write with style and beauty. The success of a great work of fiction lies in original ideas, interesting characters, an engaging plot, and poetic language. All of these essential components of writing are hard to replicate through algorithms. While AI will be able to write social media posts, suggest book titles, and perhaps even imitate writing styles, the best books, movies, and plays will ultimately be written by humans, at least for the foreseeable future.
AI will be a great tool for teachers and educational institutions, as it will help educators figure out how to personalize curriculum based on each student’s competence, progress, aptitude, and temperament. However, teaching will still need to be oriented around helping students figure out their interests, teaching students to learn independently, and providing one-on-one mentorship. These are tasks that can only be done by a human teacher. As such, there will still be a great need for human educators in the future.
Criminal defense law
Top lawyers will have nothing to worry about when it comes to job displacement. reasoning across domains, winning the trust of clients, applying years of experience in the courtroom, and having the ability to persuade a jury are all examples of the cognitive complexities, strategies, and modes of human interaction that are beyond the capabilities of AI. However, a lot of paralegal and preparatory work like document review, analysis, creating contracts, handling small cases, packing cases, and coming up with recommendations can be done much better and more efficiently with AI. The costs of law make it worthwhile for AI companies to go after AI paralegals and AI junior lawyers, but not top lawyers.
Computer science and engineering
A McKinsey report shows that the number of engineering professionals like computer scientists, engineers, IT administrators, IT workers, and tech consulters will increase by 20 million to 50 million globally by 2030. But these jobs require staying up-to-date with technology and moving into areas that are not automated by technology.
Science is the ultimate profession of human creativity. AI can only optimize based on goals set by human creativity. While AI is not likely to replace scientists, AI would make great tools for scientists. For example, in drug discovery, AI can be used to hypothesize and test possible uses of known drugs for diseases, or filter possible new drugs for scientists to consider. AI will amplify human scientists.
Good managers have essential human interaction skills including the abilities to motivate, negotiate, and persuade. They can effectively connect with employees on behalf of companies. More importantly, the best managers are able to establish a strong workplace culture and value system through their actions and words, which elicits hard work from their employees. While AI may be used to manage performance, managerial work will continue to be carried out by humans.
There’s no doubt that the AI revolution will require readjustments and a great deal of sacrifice, but despairing rather than preparing for what’s to come is unproductive and, perhaps, even reckless. We must remember that our human knack for compassion and empathy is going to be a valuable asset in the future workforce, and that jobs hinged on care, creativity, and education, will remain vital to our society.