As machines get smarter, will jobs become increasingly scarcer? That’s the fear of many, including some economists. And while yes, some jobs will be lost, those with the right skills will partake of the silver lining of smarter machines and the future of artificial intelligence. According to an article in the April 30th issue of The Wall Street Journal, AI “opens up opportunities for many new jobs to be created — some that we can imagine and many we probably can’t right now.”
For those who tool up, the Journal expects the following list of jobs to be among those that will benefit from our smart new future.
- AI Builder. Case in point: iRobot, a maker of robotic mops and vacuums has quadrupled its staff of software engineers focused on consumer robots, making robots smarter through advanced AI and computer-vision systems. Many of these are Ph.D.-level scientists, so they’re certainly not Everyman-style jobs, and so the company has expanded its talent search to a global effort.
- Customer-Robot Liaisons. People are going to need help easing into working with robotic systems, and this role is currently among the most sought-after AI-related positions according to jobsite ZipRecruiter. Ensuring clients are happy with robots that have been rented out as security guards on a graveyard shift is the job of one 36 year-old at Palo Alto’s Cobalt Robotics. The trick, they say, is to get a “good handle” on how comfortable clients are interacting with robots by monitoring usage reports, interacting with customers through calls, texts and visits, and (what else?) building relationships.
- Robot Managers. While robots can be amazingly smart, their judgment and the judgment within the AI realm generally, is lacking when compared to humans. Ditto for empathy, customer relationships and a myriad of other soft skills. The need for human oversight might be the most underestimated part of all according to one McKinsey partner who focuses on automation.
- Data Labelers. For AI to understand the world, it needs humans to explain what things are. That means labels. Identifying objects in images or parsing sentences may be things we humans take for granted, but robots will need our help. Self-driving car developers, for instance, can have hundreds of folks labeling data. Sometimes it’s simple, sometimes it’s subtle. Posters and pictures around an office may seem like trespassers to a robot, and they need to be ‘taught’ that these are not potential threats.
- Drone Performance Artists. Drones are becoming more and more a fixture in the film world, flying props, handling lighting and providing overhead shots at sporting events. Artists who can customize them to suit the needs of different performances like concerts, musicals, circuses and sporting events are increasingly in demand. Said one such artist, “It’s a crazy opportunity because I have a blank slate and can develop whatever I want this field to be.”
- AI Lab Scientists. Smart software is remaking drug development, sifting through vast troves of data faster than humans to come up with new directions for medical research. Data scientists like computational biologists can help AI systems learn so that computers can surface novel ideas, with human technicians also testing the AI results to see which are valid and which are not. The feedback they give AI machines only serves to make them smarter.
- Safety and Test Drivers. Self-driving vehicles are not there yet, in the opinion of industry insiders, but they are expected to spread slowly across the automotive landscape. That provides opportunities for people to help the vehicles do their jobs safely, and take over when necessary. Testers today provide feedback to manufacturers when a vehicle encounters a situation it’s unsure how to handle. One company doing so is tripling its number of testers, and hiring test engineers to devise scenarios for shuttles, not to mention maintenance, testing and cleaning crews.