In early September, I gave a presentation at the SAS Explore 2023 conference in Las Vegas to discuss how artificial intelligence will disrupt data science, with specific focus on AI-driven enhancements for data notebooks (like Jupyter). But before I dive into the specifics of that presentation (I’ll do that in part 2 of this article), I think it’s worth examining how AI will impact work as a whole, as we know it today.

To put it bluntly: will you lose your job in 10 years, thanks to AI?

The answer, of course, is nuanced. History has taught us that industry disruption definitely comes with job losses. In the early 1800s, Luddites (British weavers and textile workers) raided textile factories and broke machinery in hopes that their actions would prevent the adoption of machinery that threatened their skilled craft. However, those efforts did little to stop mechanical progress.

With each new technological advancement, the equipment in the workplace as well as the nature of the work changes. But what is the extent of the impact? A May 2023 report from Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that AI was responsible for nearly 4,000 job losses in one month, and this number is likely to compound. According to Goldman Sachs, as many as 300 million global jobs will be impacted by automation thanks to AI (per CNN reporting). Perhaps like never before, the breadth of what AI can do has the ability to significantly impact the employment landscape.

In my own career, several of my roles have been impacted by technology. My expertise is in web development and over the years I have been "replaced" by CMS website builders and large, cloud-based SaaS tools. But with change also comes opportunity, which is why DataLux is operating at the forefront of AI-driven automation. In other words, technological advancement has closed some doors, but opened new ones throughout my career.

Generative AI as an Industrial Revolution

Previous industrial revolutions led to the disappearance of some jobs but introduced new infrastructure and consumer products, driving economic growth and creating more jobs. The current AI-driven revolution differs in its impact on professional workers, affecting a wide range of jobs, handling "uniquely human" functions, and progressing rapidly. Anticipating the future is challenging as we are familiar with today's jobs at risk of change or replacement, causing anxiety about the unknown new economy and jobs that will emerge.

How the AI Industrial Revolution is Differerent

  • It affects a wide range, mainly white-collar jobs
  • New functions substitute "uniquely human" functions
  • Rapid change

Current AI technologies are impacting jobs higher up the skill ladder compared to past industrial revolutions, resembling a form of deskilling and altering power dynamics within organizations. Tools like DALL∙E 2 and ChatGPT enable employees to create art and write software without specialized expertise. While generative AI may deskill certain roles, it also promises significant productivity growth, empowering users proficient with these tools and leading to the creation of new jobs. The distinguishing factor in the current AI revolution is its rapid pace of change, contrasting with previous industrial revolutions that unfolded over decades. The swift transition to AI-driven automation, mobile apps, and cloud computing poses challenges for adaptation as mass production of AI software can be instantaneous and cost-effective.

Will AI’s impact be replacement or enhancement?

As we know from experience, technology often enhances our day-to-day work instead of eliminating it. While AI is very good at automating routine tasks, it will no doubt:

  • lead to creation of new job functions specifically designated to AI use and development (research, maintenance, strategy, ethical guidelines, etc.), and
  • create opportunities for humans to focus on more complex and abstract tasks. You may have experienced this phenomenon before where just as you have automated a particular task and gotten it off your plate, a whole array of new and unexpected work is uncovered! There seems to be a never-ending list of things to accomplish.
  • knock-on effects can happen which are hard to predict. Involving new industries and new ways of performing work that do not exists yet.

What can we do to prepare for AI in the workplace?

With the public launch of ChatGPT, we have been given the opportunity to learn about and explore AI’s capabilities in real time. So, first and foremost, test out the tools. Learn about their capabilities and their limitations.

Second, keep reading! There is a lot to digest out there from experts in the field. Read, listen, learn and then formulate your own insights about AI’s potential.

Finally, start a dialogue with your leaders and colleagues about the potential applications for generative AI in your business. It’s possible that your leadership and/or IT department has already started exploring potential vendors and/or in-house solutions.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this article where we’ll deep dive impacts to the data science field specifically.

If you have questions or just interested in how Generative AI will affect your job, business, we are here to discuss the implications with you, Get In Touch