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AI Means More Jobs, Not Less

Sept. 20, 2017
Even as robots take over some manufacturing duties, new industries and fields will guarantee continuous opportunities—especially for engineers and other technical professionals.

It’s an oft-leveraged promise for politicians: “We’ll bring jobs/manufacturing/etc. back.” “Back” means to the U.S. mainland versus China, India, Mexico, etc. While making it more beneficial for manufacturers to invest in the U.S. would obviously be beneficial in many ways—including to the work force—this promise is an outdated one. Some jobs are going away—especially in manufacturing—and they are not coming back. The reason, of course, is automation.

But I’m not here to tell our engineering audience that automation is changing the employment landscape. You are the ones writing the software, developing the algorithms, deploying the sensors, and more. Engineers have a front-row seat to this tremendous leap in how people live, work, and function in myriad ways. As we roll out the results of our annual Salary & Career Report, we are not yet seeing the impact of this change in your opinions about your career, salary, education, and more. The responses of our engineering audience are much in keeping with recent years.

These findings tell us that engineering jobs are not feeling much negative impact from the rise of automation. In fact, some say increased automation bodes well for engineers, who will see an increase in engineering jobs. Others predict that we will need more engineering, but with a mix of information-technology (IT) skills to manage automated approaches. It’s probably pretty safe to predict that while we will still need engineers in large numbers, there will be a different mix of tasks for them to do. The prime example is more coding.

Last month, CNBC published an article on the topic of robots taking jobs featuring Lee Rainie, director of internet and technology research at the Pew Research Center. “Analysts see a trend in so-called STEM jobs involving science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Ranie. In particular, he singled out algorithm writers and assessors as being in demand.

Beyond engineering, the outlook—even with AI in our midst—is certainly not all doom and gloom. The tech revolution is creating a flood of new products, services, and industries that are taking off: e-commerce, alternative energy, green economy, IoT, high-tech homes, climate control, intelligent cars, etc.,” noted research-based firm TechCast Global. “The field of energy, climate change, and environment alone is likely to create a $10- to $20-trillion global industry.

“TechCast estimates market saturation for about 50 technologies at an average of about $1 trillion each, for a total of about $50 trillion in new economic growth over the next few decades. That’s as big as the present global economy. All these industries will create lots of new jobs, including routine jobs.”

The key, it seems, is in re-training and re-educating our work force as we adapt. Gone will be many of the jobs of yesteryear, which would remain relatively the same throughout a person’s work career. Going forward, more people may start off performing one role in one profession and then be prompted to change—either to a different profession or to fulfill a new or adapted role within their current field. People may have two, three, or four very different careers over their work lives. It may be that we rely on AI as a teacher and guide as we learn new required skills, making artificial intelligence a partner instead of a foe.

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