How AI Will Affect Future Jobs and Workflows

Like it or not, AI is here to stay — and it might not be good news for everyone.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

How AI will affect future jobs

Artificial intelligence has been a trending news topic for the past few years. AI programs such as ChatGPT, IBM Watson, Alexa and Google Assistant are all driving awareness of AI to new heights, and the industry is evolving all the time.

It’s inevitable that AI will impact the labor market; in fact, it already is.

This article aims to demystify AI’s impact on future jobs. We’ll discuss what AI is, the types of AI and how it impacts careers, and which jobs are most at risk from ongoing developments in the field.

What is AI?

Artificial Intelligence is intelligence generated by machines or computers, and their ability to learn, analyze and create context.

AI is not science fiction: it’s with us right now and is used in a variety of settings such as chatbots and other specific tasks. This is known as Weak AI.

In the world of work, AI is already used to improve our lives. For example, chatbots can assist with basic customer and employee interactions. When it comes to applying for roles, applicant tracking systems are becoming more reliant on AI, with this being used to screen candidates.

AI can also be used to increase the accuracy of data and keep that data safe and secure from hackers. Generative AI can create images, audio and text. In short, AI is being used more and more with every passing month.

How does AI work?

AI works by two things coming together: data and algorithms. Modern computing science allows AI programs to analyze complex data patterns and use learning models to process these patterns. AI undertakes “machine learning” by using algorithms to let the data carry on programming, independent of external programmers. This is called Strong AI.

There are different types of AI: we are seeing Weak AI take a backseat to Strong AI, as well as Generative AI becoming more prevalent. The acid test for AI is whether people can distinguish its output from that of a human. This is called the Turing Test.

All this means that AI can teach itself to do things and can, in principle, improve itself with additional interactions and experiences to create more data for algorithms to process. This whole process might sound clunky, but it can happen in seconds!

Which jobs is AI likely to replace?

AI will inevitably impact some jobs in various sectors. Here’s a list of the top 10 jobs that could be replaced by AI in the future.

  1. Accountants. AI-powered bookkeeping programs can swiftly and accurately analyze complex sets of accounts.
  2. Content marketers. AI tools can already generate marketing content.
  3. Customer service roles. AI is already being used to run customer service chatbots.
  4. Data analysts. AI can analyze data in real time, with higher accuracy than humans.
  5. Driving jobs. People driving cars for a living are at risk of losing their jobs to autonomous vehicles.
  6. Military personnel. Robots could soon be replacing soldiers, pilots and sailors in combat.
  7. Existing tools can already quickly generate high-quality code.
  8. As machine learning algorithms develop, AI will be able to proofread texts of much higher complexity.
  9. Retail workers. Stock counts, customer service and processing payments can be executed by AI. This can completely change the way we shop.
  10. Translators. In the future, AI will be able to translate more complex sentences with greater accuracy in real time.

How will AI change the future workplace?

By its very nature, AI will change the future of work through continuously learning and analyzing what we do, and providing ways of doing things faster and better. Here are some ways in which the workplace will be changed by AI:

It will replace some roles

Transportation and logistics, production, food preparation, and sales- and administration-related roles will be some of the jobs to take the biggest blow, with AI gaining traction in how we do business.

But although AI can reduce the need for humans executing manual, repetitive or even dangerous tasks, it doesn’t mean it will wipe out the need for a human pair of eyes monitoring everything a machine does.

Indeed, the rise of AI doesn’t mean that millions of people will be out of work. Many creative and trade professions will continue to be best served by humans, and so will ones that rely heavily on interpersonal relationships.

It will also create new roles

A few years ago, Oxford University’s Center for the Governance of AI conducted a study to gauge people’s attitudes on AI. According to the data, more than 8 in 10 Americans agreed that AI and robots should be “carefully managed”.

This indicates a big mistrust of technology, but are such views justifiable?

Probably (or hopefully) not. Where some job markets might shrink, other job markets will open as people retrain into roles that are necessary to support AI programs in various ways. These include deep learning engineers, chatbot developers, data annotators and even AI ethics experts — all of which will work together to ensure that AI does what humans want it to do.

It will increase employee efficiency

AI technologies can enhance both operational efficiency and efficacy. When you can press the tab key on your keyboard and have a sentence filled out for you thanks to predictive text, you work faster, avoid spelling errors and preserve your brain power for more demanding tasks — and this is but a tiny example!

AI systems can help you plan and organize your daily to-dos, generate ideas to enhance your brainstorming sessions, tidy up your files, produce content at the click of a button, and quickly put together stunning presentations.

It will save teams precious time

Typewriters, dictionaries, encyclopedias, snail mail, ledger books… There really was a time — not so long ago, too — when people had to grapple with bits of paper and bulky devices, manually replicating, searching for and analyzing information.

Today, you can talk to your computer and ask it to quickly locate a file for you, set up a meeting, look up something or create a to-do list, saving you time and the need to pause and resume your work whenever something minor comes up.

When this can be done for every single employee, and with technology evolving exceptionally fast, we can only imagine how much more streamlined our professional lives will become.

It will eliminate human interaction in some settings

Even if AI doesn’t eliminate our jobs, it will become more ingrained in them — often to the point of being able to take over certain tasks altogether. Think of how answering machines and chatbots have saved receptionists, secretaries and customer service agents precious time, for example.

As ATMs, self-checkout tills and answering machines have rendered human interaction unnecessary in some settings, robots will continue to take on what we’ve so far considered human-facing roles. Although in some cases this can be positive, saving time and eliminating misunderstandings and biases, in other settings it might be seen as undesirable.

Take socially assistive robots, for example: they may be able to provide long-term care patients with assistance and company. But will that ever really be able to replace the benefits of human-to-human interactions?

How will AI impact your day-to-day work?

We’ve talked a little more generally about the ways in which AI programs will change the workplace in the not-so-distant future. But how will it impact employees on a more individual level? Let’s talk about it.

It will require you to learn

Learning how to use AI tools is going to be vital in the future workplace. And it’s not going to be a one-time thing, either. Technology is evolving so rapidly that employees and bosses alike will have to stay abreast of updates to existing products as well as the arrival of new, improved ones.

Therefore, with the rise of AI will come an increased need for commitment to continuous learning. Workers, regardless of seniority and what industry they work in, will be expected to regularly assess and boost their technical skill set and know-how.

It will speed things up

Already, two distinct AI capabilities are shaping how we go about navigating our workloads as well as interact with other human beings.

We’re referring to natural language processing — that’s AI’s ability to interpret the instructions we give it verbally or in writing and execute them, using large language models — as well as auto-completion, which refers to AI’s capacity to build and expand on any half-finished code, message or long-form content we give it.

Add these to its instantaneous and accurate analysis of datasets and information, and you get significant amounts of time freed up for workers in all sorts of professions.

It will take tedious tasks off your plate

Although we think of automation as a recent invention, the principle dates back to the 18th century. That’s when the first fully automated spinning mill and flour mill were developed for the first time!

Today, many tasks in the workplace (ranging from onboarding new members to invoicing clients, reimbursing expenses and replying to FAQs) are automated, carried out with precision, punctuality and agility by various pieces of software.

It could change your duties

While AI could cross a number of duties off your list, it could also change your very job description, depending on what you do.

For example, where you were used to doing things manually or by using a combination of different tools and software before, employers might start requiring AI utilization for the same tasks. Or, where you were used to managing a big team of people in the past, you might find yourself “managing” a particular AI tool, executing your tasks with its help alone.

It could shorten the workweek

In an interview with Bloomberg, Jamie Dimon, CEO of financial services firm JPMorgan Chase, predicted that future generations will only have to work three and a half days a week thanks to AI.

And, if you think about it, it makes sense: with machines streamlining business operations and executing complex tasks in milliseconds, employees and business owners alike should be able to enjoy improved work–life balance.

What tasks will AI do better than humans?

AI has now become advanced enough to beat humans at games like chess and poker, which require employing a combination of strategies to win. But what about in the workplace? Computer programs and platforms can outperform us mere mortals in the following ways:

  • Quickly analyzing massive amounts of data. Anthropic’s Claude (which is widely referred to as ChatGPT’s nemesis) can “read” and analyze 75,000-word documents in seconds.
  • Suggesting solutions to complex problems. Based on its findings upon analyzing data or texts, AI can arrive at appropriate solutions and recommendations fast.
  • Accurately and swiftly executing repetitive tasks. Let’s face it: 10 minutes into any boring task, and you’re bound to start tuning out mentally. But AI algorithms won’t. (AI won’t even need 10 minutes to do the thing, anyway.)
  • Communicating in any language. Real-time translation is no longer a figment of the imagination, thanks to AI.
  • Working in harsh environments. Machines can exist and survive in places where humans can’t, carrying out tasks in outer space or deep in the ocean.

How businesses will use AI to their advantage

Liwei Chen, assistant professor of operations, business analytics and information systems at the University of Cincinnati, makes the following comments in an interview on artificial intelligence: “In general, AI can be used in two ways. One is automation. That is, we use AI to replace some human beings for certain tasks. The other way is augmentation. We use AI to augment human beings’ intelligence and ability to finish some tasks.”

As she explains, AI is capable of reducing both the cost and the time it takes to carry out day-to-day processes — making it likelier that companies will welcome it with open arms. This can be applied to virtually any setting, be it an accounting firm where AI carries out data entry fast without compromising the accuracy, or a warehouse where machines work faster, longer and completely autonomously.

“[Robots] maintain the quality all the way through,” Chen observes. “The work processes will thus be standardized and streamlined; you don’t see a lot of deviations.”

How to upskill and use AI

You don’t have to be a computer science wiz, nor fully understand how artificial neural networks work to utilize AI at your job. Here are five steps to get started:

1. Consider your needs

A small business owner will have different needs to a junior employee in a big firm. Both can benefit from using AI tools, however!

The first step in teaching yourself how to use AI tools, therefore, is identifying where you could use a (virtual) hand.

2. Sign up for a course

Many universities and tech firms, including the University of Pennsylvania and Google, offer courses on using AI in business. Not only can a course like this help you in your current position, but it can also enhance your résumé, boosting your chances of landing an even better role in the future.

3. Look for tips and tutorials

Once you’ve identified which tasks you don’t have the bandwidth for, turn to your go-to search engine for suggestions. A quick query will produce multiple search results that will guide you in the right direction.

4. Interact with free tools

Tutorials and resources will only get you so far. Hands-on experience using free tools such as ChatGPT will be invaluable when you’re exploring the multiple ways in which AI can help you.

5. Purchase an AI tool

Once you’ve checked out different options and understood the capabilities of AI, consider paying for a writing assistant like Grammarly or a customer service chatbot to make your life easier in the workplace.

How to use AI to make critical decisions

As we’ve seen, using AI tools in the workplace can free up a lot of your time, by eliminating the need for manually executing time-consuming tasks. By saving you precious time and brain cells, you can allocate more resources to researching, brainstorming and discussing ideas before making decisions.

If business executive Jamie Dimon’s prediction comes true, then AI will give you more time to rest in the future, too, which is also beneficial when weighing up various options.

At the same time, AI can also reduce decision fatigue, which enhances mental clarity, allowing for less taxing and more effective decision making. The more decisions a person is called to make during the day (even inconsequential ones!), the likelier they are to feel depleted emotionally, mentally and even physically by the time they leave work.

When AI can swiftly and accurately analyze data and information, however, employees and leaders can make more crucial decisions with less effort and more confidence.

Key takeaways

There’s no denying that AI will have profound impacts on the way we work, as well as determine the future existence of some roles entirely. That said, it’s important to remember that AI is unlikely to completely replace humans in the workplace.

To summarize what we talked about in this article:

  • AI is a remarkable scientific achievement that can enhance both the speed and efficacy at which we work, with the potential to shorten the workweek in the future.
  • AI skills will soon become extremely sought after by employers. For many HR managers, knowledge of AI tools is already among the most desirable skills an employee can have.
  • Professions that require creativity, originality, critical thinking and interpersonal skills are some of the most unlikely ones to be replaced by AI.
  • Only about half of all employees (52%) report feeling “optimistic” about how AI might affect their jobs in the future, according to research by BCG.

So, do tell. What’s your opinion on AI, and how do you think it will impact the way we work? Join the conversation below and let us know.

Originally published on August 7, 2023. Contains contributions by Mike Dalley.