[DEAR DESTINY] What does the era of AI mean for our careers?

Are you worried that you might lose your job due to the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace?

So you’ve been certain that your job is secure, but you are now worried that the introduction of technology poses a threat to your future and that you might end up being unemployable.

This is what was on the mind of an anonymous reader when he wrote in to Dear Destiny, our community reporting project, which focuses on finding answers to your questions.

Here is what was sent in: “Where do we stand as employees in this new era of artificial intelligence?”

Technology is unlikely to take the place of human beings, but it will enhance what we could possibly do as individuals or organisations in terms of improving the sectors that we are operating in as companies, enhance the work of government in engaging with and enabling citizenry and enhancing healthcare delivery.

Abdullah Verachia, a faculty member from University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science and head of its India-Africa Business Network, provides us with an in-depth response to this phenomenon.

“If you look at direct replacement of jobs, perhaps some sectors will have that, but it ultimately means that other job opportunities will open up and we will have a much more enhanced understanding, appreciation, awareness and profile of the people we should be serving. Technology allows us to better understand the type of work that we should be doing and the type of impact that we can have using data artificial intelligence, deep-learning algorithms, digital tools that allow us to have a much deeper sense of the environment in which we are working,” he says.

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The most successful brands are those that can fuse digital technology with the sociological or psychological impact of how organisations understand human behaviour. Verachia says we need digital and social scientists in this environment, as we don’t make robots for other robots, but for human beings.

However, employees need to understand that this is an exciting yet frightening world. There are individuals who work in knowledge economies such as the auditing, accounting and legal industries, in which there is increased automation of knowledge, especially in primary functions.

“That means that there is a redundancy element that comes in or that we utilise this time that has freed up as a consequence of the automation of the basics of these industries to enhance the value that we create to clients to be able to have a very different value conversation.”

In other sectors, however, the impact of digital technology is starting to be visible and it is taking over some of the primary functions, forcing everybody to think about how to continue to be relevant in this new context of the organisation.

“It has been a conversation for time immemorial. How do I continue to have the relevant skillset to ensure that I am able to operate in a context that is changing quite rapidly?” says Verachia.

He reckons that there is a need for individuals who understand the new language of coding, how digital tools empower us, the language of AI and robotics and the best way to do this is to experience these products and services and force ourselves to be able to use these technologies.

Continuously learning is key here, given that democratisation of the Internet has allowed us to be in a space where we can learn about most things through various digital channels.

This era is about having an insatiable appetite for what is happening in the world around us and it empowers one to be agile and market-responsive.

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“To remain relevant in this world, we are competing with a group of individuals who come into the workforce as digital natives who were born with screens in their hands, Many people who are over the age of 30 were not born like that. It is an exciting space. You, therefore, have to force yourself to learn about how digital natives were brought up and you need to have some tough conversations,” Verachia says.

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