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Monday, April 8, 2024

How the AI revolution is different: It threatens white-collar workers

The emergence of artificial intelligence like ChatGPT has aroused fears of these toolsreplacing people in a range of professions, from coders to truck drivers. Although such concerns tend to ignore technology’s potential to create jobs, new forms of AI do pose a risk to some workers, new research from Indeed suggests: white-collar workers.

“Surprisingly enough, knowledge workers are facing the highest level of exposure here, which is quite different with what we’ve seen with other revolutions,” Gudell said. “With automation, often it was manual labor that was replaced,” Svenja Gudell, chief economist at the job-search platform, told CBS MoneyWatch.

Unlike previous cycles of technical innovation, in-person, often low-wage jobs that rely heavily on humans being physically present are likely to be the the most resilient to encroaching AI, she added.

“Driving cars still currently takes a person. Or child care. We probably wouldn’t give our kids over to the robots quite yet,” she said. Gudell added that “We’ll see the destruction of some jobs but also the creation of others along way. The human element still carries a lot of weight in these jobs — you really can’t do without it.”

What jobs are most at risk?

Among the openings currently on Indeed, software and coding jobs are the most exposed to replacement by AI, the firm found in a its analysis. That’s because so-called generative AI was determined to be adept at performing 95% of the skills these jobs require.

In addition to software development, information technology, mathematics, information design, legal and accounting positions are also among the more exposed professions.

By contrast, truck and taxi driver jobs are least exposed to AI, which could only adequately perform about 30% of the necessary skills, according to Indeed. Other jobs that are relatively insulated against AI include cleaning and sanitation as well as beauty and wellness jobs, in part because they are least likely to be performed remotely.

Another key takeway, according to Indeed: The more suitable a job is to remote work, the higher its potential exposure is to generative AI-driven change.

“A lot of in-person jobs heavily rely on that human element. You might mix in parts of generative AI there, but at the end of the day a nurse still needs to be present to stick the needle in the patient’s arm to draw blood. With sales reps, a lot of in-person communication happens when talking to clients,” Gudell said.

To be sure, AI is unlikely ever to fully replace humans even in areas where the technology excels. But it may supplant some workers whose jobs are rote and who don’t employ AI to make them more productive.

“It could mean you as an employee can use these tools and focus on higher productivity-level skills on the job. From the employer perspective, instead of hiring 15 copy editors, you might employ five because generative AI carries the load,” Gudell said.

Of all the vacant positions on its platform, Indeed said that 20% are highly exposed to generative AI. Just over 45% are moderately exposed, and 35% are minimally exposed, the firm found.

Still, it is likely premature for workers in highly exposed occupations to overhaul their careers based solely on the potential threat of AI, according to Indeed.

“It’s too early to switch to another job because we are still in the beginning days of this technological advancement,” Gudell said. “We will see what it means for jobs of the future, to see how it will be translated to everyday actions on job.”

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