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New World of Work

The Hidden Figures of AI

By 17 May 2017No Comments

1961, NASA has installed the IBM and the women who work as ‘computers’ are counting down until their jobs are replaced by this new technology. However, instead of accepting her fate Ms Dorothy Vaughan teaches herself FORTRAN. She teaches her fellow ladies in West Area, all women of colour, and is promoted to Supervisor of the Programming Department. This was one of the stories explored in the 2016 Oscar nominated film Hidden Figures, which was based on the true story of the African American female mathematicians who worked at NASA during the Space Race.
The message of adaption in the face of technology is still powerful today. With the fear toward robots and artificial intelligence taking our jobs, we need to be ready to adapt and move with the flow, rather than resist the change. Innovation is unavoidable, and historically advancements in technology have altered the workforce and workplace, changing the roles and skills that are required.
However, artificial intelligence and the technological revolution will likely be bigger than all the revolutions that came before – electricity, industrial, internet, mobile internet – due to its persuasiveness and ability to replicate human ability.
Artificial Intelligence will not take our jobs overnight, but as a society we need to start preparing for the changes now. If you worked in a factory, and you were told that in five years the job you were working in would not exist anymore, would you wait idly to be made redundant, or would you start to build the skills and knowledge you would need to find your next position?
The people who resist the change and refuse to acknowledge that they need to adapt may find themselves among the number who do lose their jobs to AI.
AI will impact upon jobs across numerous sectors – it won’t just be taking the factory positions. Experts predict that any job position that is heavily based in routine will be susceptible, including accountants and lawyers.
It’s the positions which require human interaction, empathy and emotion which will most likely remain safe. Early childhood education, for instance, will likely maintain a human presence as children need to learn humanity at this age, and robots and AI are not yet equipped to provide this. However this may change in the future.
There is also the element of trust. In Hidden Figures, Astronaut John Green asks for mathematician Katherine to recheck the numbers as ‘you cannot trust something you cannot look in the eyes.’ This attitude could create the need for a human element to work alongside AI, creating a fusion workforce.
There will also be a need for humans to maintain and control AI and robots. Ensuring that technology is working as it should, and identifying and fixing any faults to the system. There positions will be created by AI, therefore creating a new job that a human will need to fill, assuming they have adapted to the changes.
Despite the arguments about overseas workers taking Australian jobs, perhaps the focus should be on the AI revolution. As a group, humanity needs to be aware and get ready for the Artificial Intelligence (AI), where in the future we will need less people in certain jobs, but we will still need thinkers and intelligence behind the revolution.

Purnima Kabra