Will artificial intelligence jobs mean the rise of robot employees, or are humans still the best staffing investment?

Are robots on-track to steal jobs from hard-working humans? Depends on the data. As noted by Fortune, research from firms like PwC suggest that automated technologies could take over 38 percent of all American jobs by 2030 with areas such as hospitality, public administration, finance and transportation especially hard-hit. But there's another side to the story, one that suggests a rise in human-centered artificial intelligence jobs even as robots become ubiquitous features in factories and offices. For finance leaders, staying ahead of the curve means taking the time to analyze AI hiring strategies now in preparation for a robot-centered future.

The Human Factor

One reason for a potential down-shift in the speed of robotic adoption as technology advances? Human self-interest. According to Forbes, while human beings enjoy the benefits of AI such as smart homes and intelligent algorithms to perform basic calculations, we're not great at letting technology into specific domains of influence or expertise. Sometimes the reasons sound legitimate — device security and code sophistication are good examples — but ultimately humans want to retain a measure of control.

So what happens when the machines start doing jobs better than humans? Won't C-suites put pressure on finance leaders to cut back staff and eliminate unnecessary costs like health care, vacation hours and even salaries? Maybe. But as noted by CNN, companies like GM — currently making a big push for self-driving cars — just hired 1100 people to help research and design new AI specifications. Or consider a recent piece from the Harvard Business Review (HBR), which points out that while machines excel at certain tasks such as gathering, analyzing and interpreting data there are specific skills that machines can't mimic: Understanding, motivating and interacting with human beings.

Consider the role of a healthcare professional. While emerging AI comes close to matching the ability of doctors to diagnose conditions and prescribe treatment, robotic medical technology lacks anything resembling a bedside manner. And since treatment plans depend on the active participation of patients, stone-cold diagnosis isn't enough.

Autonomous Adaptation

So what does this mean for finance leaders? Is it worth slashing the human workforce to make way for our super-intelligent robot overlords or is staff-centered investment the best bet? Creating a long-term plan requires multi-part analysis:

  • Decide — Does your industry and market support AI technologies or staff to support their development? For example, financial firms enjoy big benefits from AI tools capable of quickly capturing, storing and analyzing transactional data to scan for fraud or other criminal activities. Manufacturing firms, meanwhile, could benefit from highly-trained human staff capable of designing new AI algorithms or finding new ways to use robotic innovations. Before budgeting for new artificial intelligence jobs or cutting back current positions, determine the best course of action and most lucrative potential investment strategy.
  • Invest — Here, businesses need two-pronged investment, starting with infrastructure. Developing new AI tools and technologies doesn't happen in a vacuum, meaning finance leaders need to equip staff with the network and computing resources they require to innovate and implement new designs. Finance leaders also need to invest in market research — what type of specialists are other firms hiring? What are they paying? What kind of responsibilities and expectations come with the position?
  • Balance — Human or machine? How many of each? Firms need to consider the benefits of emerging technologies such as Chatbots, which according to Venture Beat "can help build profitable long-term relationships" and don't require human-centric support such as salaries, days off or overtime. Human staff, meanwhile, are required to both maintain existing AI solutions and develop long-term strategies — just as cloud computing has advanced significantly over the last ten years, artificial intelligence jobs won't stay static. Expect massive increases in compute power and autonomous ability hand-in-hand with concerns about security and reasonable use.

Could robots take all the jobs? Potentially. But the more likely outcome is one of support and symbiosis — new jobs that emerge to support AI even as older positions are phased out. For finance leaders, adapting to artificial intelligence in the workplace means deciding where it fits, spending where it makes sense and finding the human/robot balance.

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