Whether AI presents a long-term existential danger or not, it will soon be causing major disruption to the world of work. Organizations urgently need to prepare and individuals must consider their own job security.
Apocalyptic comments from Elon Musk and others that AI poses a threat to humanity should not be dismissed, but they can be a distraction from addressing current everyday dangers such as discrimination, disinformation and above all job disruption.
In his new book, AI Battle Royale: How to Protect Your Job from Disruption in the 4th Industrial Revolution, Ashley Marc Recanati offers some practical strategies to help alleviate the fears of workers facing mass structural unemployment as the value of their skills erode.
Recanati’s core message to workers is that job preservation means adapting. He predicts a “battle royale of colossal proportions” for employees. There will not be enough room to accommodate everyone at the top of the pyramid, so staying put is not an option. People need now to start a on journey whose destination is to achieve job security, and organizations need to help them. A pragmatic plan for the journey ahead should take account of three distinct perspectives. The first is self-awareness, job introspection and acknowledgement of one’s skills and aptitudes. The second perspective involves sensing trends—what are the likely disruptions ahead, and where will market needs and opportunities arise. The third perspective focuses on personal preferences and aspirations, as far as they are potentially achievable.
It is important to remain aware of the bigger picture and where necessary adjust the plan as circumstances change. As far as immediate actions to take, Recanati’s advice is that people should always remember that routine work is automatable, and seek out work which involves the human touch, people skills, managing others, or cognitive work dependent on creativity. It is a mistake to avoid the technology as you will only be outshone by more tech-savvy peers. Rather aim to be at the forefront in transforming business practices to increase your team’s efficiency, including applying machine learning and automation. An efficient organization is less likely to require radical overhaul and dramatic job losses in future.
The book does not offer a simple template for success. The situation is complex, and it is impossible to predict exactly how Industry 4.0 will unfold—jobs will be lost but unknown new job opportunities will emerge. Recanati’s approach is to map out the terrain—how we got where we are, where we are likely to be going, and the AI technologies that are driving disruption.
He poses a tortoise or hare dilemma. In the tortoise scenario economies would be able to create demand for jobs in new sectors to compensate for those lost to automation elsewhere. This is possible but is it stable? Might it just allow automation to pass under the radar before governments are able to take remedial action. In the hare scenario there would not be enough time to remediate before the situation was out of control.
In framing his broad advice on navigating this unpredictable future, Recanati backs the hare. He observes that technology is moving so fast it is “outpacing the generational workforce renewal necessary to adapt skills via our educational and training systems.” AI is in its infancy. AI powered computers and robotics already emulate human tasks, and this process is advancing at pace. “What starts out as a complement for labour can at a later stage become a substitute for labour.”
Unlike Musk, who recently predicted all jobs will disappear, Recanati assumes a world where automation, augmented reality, and AI technologies will reduce the job pool by maybe 20 to 50 per cent and focuses on how to adjust to this. The book’s USP is that—rather than discussing what corporations or governments should be doing—it is about what the individual needs to do to be part of the percentage that stays relevant and retains their income. Uniquely, rather than addressing business leaders, entrepreneurs, and policymakers, Recanati, an entrepreneur himself, writes for the worker.
AI Battle Royale is the result of five years’ research and the insight of an experienced practitioner. This is not the place to list the plethora of valuable advice it offers, but suffice it to say, it is all precise and practical and not to be missed whatever position you occupy in the current economy.
‘AI Battle Royale: How to Protect Your Job from Disruption in the 4th Industrial Revolution,’ Ashley Marc Recanati. Published by Copernicus Books/Springer, 2023. ISBN: 978-3-031-19280-7