You’ve seen the headlines about all the jobs that will be obsolete in the near future because of the burgeoning use of artificial intelligence (AI), and for decades we’ve heard about factory workers and other repetitive-task roles being replaced by robots.
So how real is the threat? Does it make sense to pursue a tech career when AI seems to be taking over the world? Consider that a 2017 study by Gartner predicted that 1.8 million jobs would be lost to AI by 2020, and the future looks a little bleak.
The Opportunity in AI
There was more to that same study, though not as widely reported: It also predicted the creation of 2.3 million new jobs, or a net gain of a half million. How so?
One of the bigger hot buttons in the tech world right now is cybersecurity, thanks in part to a huge spike in ransomware attacks on businesses over the last year. AI is certainly part of the solution … search “cybersecurity” on Google News and nearly every article has “AI” in the title. So will all those network engineer positions go away as AI takes over?
Not likely, because AI by itself is not as effective as AI combined with human beings. A recent study notes that the combination of human intelligence and AI is 20 times more effective in preventing threats than AI alone, and that combination allows organizations to find and close critical vulnerabilities 40% faster than otherwise. A New York Times article from 2018 predicted some 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by 2021, and that was well before the pandemic ratcheted up the demand.
What About Robots?
If you’re just starting out in your career, you may have some concerns about the ‘replaced by a robot’ worry. And to be fair, there are some career tracks that don’t look promising in the long term. For example, the writing on the wall with self-driving vehicles might make tractor-trailer driver a dubious career choice.
Understand two things, though: the fear of robots and automation replacing everyone has been around for at least 50 years. Robots have transformed some industries and certainly have replaced humans in specific tasks, but we have collectively adapted.
More importantly, someone has to design, build, maintain and upgrade those robots, and while the demand may not be quite as high as in cybersecurity, many studies foresee annual growth of five percent or more in robotics careers.
It’s impossible to know exactly what the future holds, but on almost all fronts, the future for tech careers looks bright, even with AI and robots in that picture.