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Jobs of the future: Will humans outmatch AI co-workers

21 Feb 2019

Article by Benjamin Pring, VP and Managing Director, Cognizant Centre for the Future of Work

Earlier this year, the National Centre for Vocational Education Research forecasted around 4.1 million job openings would be created by 2024, or approximately 516,600 a year. While a majority of these positions will be created as more Baby Boomers retire, the report predicts weak wage growth will have a negative effect on retail, while manual labour jobs in industries such as manufacturing will be susceptible to automation and artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled technologies.

All too often predictions like this focus on the negatives of automation on existing jobs and fail to mention how many positions will appear as a complement to how people conduct their work. History points to the fact some jobs will disappear and be replaced, while other jobs will also be created in different industrial cycles. Talent shortage, however, continues to be the biggest challenge to fulfil new roles. In fact, the Australian Government predicts that by 2030, the country may experience a shortage of workers rather than a shortage of jobs. 

That said, it is also pertinent to note that new technologies such as AI and automation are not going to entirely eliminate the need for human intervention. Robots can’t be creative, strategic or empathetic. They can’t use common sense or solve emotionally-driven problems. Put simply, they can’t be human.  If you are worried about your job in the future, our advice is this: find one that requires distinctly human traits like emotional intelligence and analysis of behaviour.

21 more jobs of the future, created by humans for humans

Historically, the introduction of new technologies has affected manual rather than knowledge-based, service jobs, and the level of routine in tasks has generally determined job vulnerability. It is important to note though, that disruptive technologies have the ability to expand the scope of existing roles.

A 2017 report by AlphaBeta analysed the hours Australians worked over one year and concluded that over the past 15 years, the time spent by these workers on routine and physical tasks has reduced by two hours a week.

As workers switch to different tasks within their existing roles, focusing more energy on creative, intuitive and interpersonal tasks, and machines take on more repetitive work, our workforce becomes safer, more challenging and arguably, more satisfying.

In the past, we proposed 21 New Jobs that will emerge within the next decade. We have now forecasted 21 More Jobs that may arise from the disruptive technologies revolutionising every aspect of our lives – where we live, how we communicate, how we commute to work, and even “own” products.

Some of these positions will be highly technical and are not too far from becoming reality, while others are years away from actualisation. Some will become a person’s career and specialised field for the next 50 years, and others will become a part of the gig economy, fluctuating with the needs of different organisations. 

These jobs range from cyber-attack agents, juvenile cybercrime counsellors, subscription management specialists, and heads of business behaviour, to smart home design managers, machine risk officers, algorithm bias auditors, E-sports arena builders and vertical farm consultants. 

Innovation is the word of the day  

The prevailing sentiment is that automation is a threat, with humans scrambling to keep their jobs in a bleak post-machine world. But the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Preparing to make the most of the vast opportunities that new technologies present, both Australian and New Zealand governments have developed national workforce action plans: Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation and New Zealand’s Future of Work Forum announced earlier this year.

The NSW government unveiled a new plan this month to employ 30 skilled experts in data information and management, technical projects, as well as policy, research and operations. This is a positive step in the right direction for the NSW government to embrace digital innovation rather than fear it. They are creating a centralised technology talent pool that other government agencies can access whenever they require the specific technical and digital skills that are currently in short supply. 

Regardless of how the workforce changes, automation, data and algorithms will complement rather than replace human employees. This is because there will always be a need for innovation, creativity, problem-solving, interpersonal skills, and human ingenuity – valuable skills that can’t be taught or even programmed.