Here’s why there is nothing to fear from AI

By Candice Chung / BLOOMBERG

It’s a question straight out of a science fiction novel…will artificial intelligence (AI) eventually replace us?

As machines continue to get smarter, and our appetite for quotidian technology grows, it makes sense that the most rudimentary work involving rote tasks and mass information processing are being automated.

Think of a time when the automated teller machine didn’t exist; or when ticket sales were only done over the phone or in person; or the idle nights at video stores where memories of summer jobs — once a rite of passage for cash-strapped teens — grew as faint as well-worn VHS tapes.

All those tasks were once performed by humans, but now a world of digital providers await us.

But while it’s true that AI is changing the labour landscape, experts believe it will also bring forth opportunities for a different kind of talent.

“There’s a lot of speculation that many employees will lose their jobs due to new technology, (but it has actually) allowed us to more effectively pinpoint where, and how, we want people to work for us,” said Sue Howse, MD of Harrier Talent Solutions.

“What automation and robotics can’t do is strategically manage themselves, staff, clients or take into account the unknown or the Black Swan events of the world.

“To be successful, companies will always need those with a high level of emotional intelligence (EQ) who can navigate different circumstances.”

Areas that will see a rise in demand for high-EQ employees include client- facing and decision-making roles.

In fact, according to findings on Harvard Business Review, skills like “persuasion, social understanding and empathy” are going to become “more and more prized over the next decade”, as AI takes over menial tasks.

There will also be a spike in demand for roles that require emotional labour.

“Emotional labour refers to work that involves managing one’s own emotions or those of others.

“This especially applies to leadership roles and project managers leading change and transformation, as well as front line roles that involve engaging people, such as contact centres and face-to-face customer service and sales,” said Linda Simonsen, CEO of FuturePeople.

“When the limits of technology have been reached and human interaction is required to solve a problem, a new type of person needs to show up.

“This in-demand person will be a highly engaged, knowledgeable and emotionally intelligent brand ambassador who can connect emotionally, show empathy and personalise the solution.”

The key to thriving in the era of AI is a willingness to embrace change and demonstrate flexibility.

“It’s an exciting time. AI is a positive step for the business world,” said Simonsen.

“It will see non-value-added and transactional tasks automated, freeing up people to do what makes them human — that is, their ability to feel and impact how others feel; think creatively; collaborate and engage with others to solve complex problems.”