Whether you’re talking about cognitive computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence or its more common acronym, AI, the real topic is machines doing jobs humans used to. What does that mean for marketers in an AI-dominated future? How will the human role change? Are robots going to steal marketing jobs, or elevate them?
Let’s think it through.
Luddites and Automation
Automation has always been seen as a threat to human employment. In fact, one of the first uses of sabotage against automation happened back in the 1810s. “Luddite” textile workers destroyed weaving machines that were poised to take their jobs. (Yes, that is where the term “Luddite” comes from.)
Today the alarm may be less destructive, but it’s still ringing. For example, a few months ago, PWC projected that the U.S. stands to lose 38 percent of its jobs to automation in the next 15 years. And the New York Times’s Claire Cain Miller has built her column on cataloging the negative impacts automation will have on jobs.
But these analyses focus just on job losses, and that’s not the best way to think about automation. After all, the Luddite movement was 100 years ago. While hand-weaving may not be a growth field today, the textile industry employs far more people now than it did then.
While automation changes the tasks employers will pay people to do, in the past it has not put populations truly out of work. The jobs change, but they’re still there.
Analysts are starting to see hope in the AI future on our horizon as well.
USA Today recently ran a special report on the impact of automation across the U.S. economy. And while some of the stats in it are eye-popping — PWC believes 45 percent of work activities can be automated (PDF), potentially “saving” $2 trillion in labor costs; McKinsey identified 70 jobs that could have 90 percent of their tasks handled by automation — the overall takeaway is that the economy is not collapsing, it’s changing.
How Jobs Will Change With AI
Quartz is one publication that’s taken a positive view of the impact AI will have on humans and our careers. A recent Quartz article by Dennis R. Mortensen argued that AI will elevate our jobs and “restore our humanity.”
“Each time technology ate one type of jobs, new ones appeared to take their place,” says Mortensen. “Human ingenuity did its thing, we adapted, and we survived to live (and work) another century.”
His big takeaway: “Automation will take away the parts of our jobs we don’t like and leave room for more meaningful work.“