The question on everyone’s mind is “Will AI automate me out of a job?” and at the Lightcast Connect Conference, the short answer was “no.” The long answer provided a fascinating perspective on the complex but optimistic landscape of artificial intelligence in the labor market.
To understand what impact AI will have on work, we first need to understand what its capabilities are, and also where it falls short. In the final keynote session on the first day of the conference, Ashwin Acharya spoke on “How Generative AI Is Transforming Work.” Acharya is a Managing Director for Data & AI at Accenture, and his session outlined the current situation as AI has become incorporated at every level of business.
“We used to have time to learn new stuff,” Acharya said. “I think back to when I was starting in the workforce, when we had the internet boom and then the cell phone boom. There was a lot of time for people to get used to new things and use them in their workplaces—but if you look at ChatGPT, it reached 100 million users in the first two months.”
But in spite of its popularity, Acharya also laid out some of the pitfalls of employing AI tools, in particular its “hallucinations” that present inaccuracies with the same level of confidence that it does facts. This, combined with the rapid pace of development, makes AI untrustworthy to be deployed on its own without supervision, but that’s not to negate its value in automating some of the more routine aspects of work.
“It's not that work is going away,” Acharya said. “The more mundane tasks will be automated, but you will still be required to use human judgment and make decisions…this is not one of those cases where your job is going to be replaced by automation. What is more likely is you are going to be replaced by somebody who understands the technology better than you do.”
The theme of learning AI skills to adapt in an evolving labor market was continued in Tuesday’s first keynote session: “Are We AI-Ready?” presented by education expert Michelle Weise. Weise is a leader in designing resilient education systems and author of the book Long Life Learning: Preparing for Jobs that Don’t Even Exist Yet. She spoke on how longer lifespans are creating a pattern that could lead to much longer careers, and that this would necessitate much greater flexibility as new technologies come on the scene. Workers who are 55 and older are staying in the workforce at historically high rates, and changing jobs an average of 12 times before retirement. Longer lifetimes might mean future workers stay in the workforce even longer, adapting to even more change—requiring more training and development.
“With this new time horizon, it really helps us understand we can't keep separating the future of education from the future of work,” Weise said. “They are really one and the same, because ongoing skill development is going to become a way of life.”
That development may mean incorporating AI-specific skills, but more significant for workers would be combining those with work in creativity, emotional intelligence, collaboration, and other fields where AI on its own falls short.
“At one point during the recession, there was a lot of worry that we just didn't have enough STEM workers for the future of work,” Weise said. “With more and more automation and future of work conversations, that conversation started to shift towards more automation, we're going to need to bring our uniquely human skills to the table.”
As the central disruption of our current era, AI is the dominant trend that today’s workers will need to focus on in their skill development. The perspective Weise shared at Lightcast Connect is a framework for understanding the big picture: whatever specific details unfold in the next months and years in AI innovation, we can know we should be looking for ways to continue to grow and learn over the coming decades.
Finally, our CTO Gresham Schlecht spoke about the Lightcast approach to AI in the final keynote of the conference. Many of those are also shared in our guide on How to Use AI in HR — Intelligently, including the Lightcast AI Philosophy, which relies on having good data inputs to provide good data output, the importance of collaboration between humans and AI, and transparency in how the tools are used.
He also spoke about exciting new projects that use the ease of AI-based chat that can make more data more accessible to more people—and that’s the future of labor market insight.
“Our vision is to take things that have historically been limited to experts in data and bring them to anyone who can type on a keyboard and understand the questions and the problems that they have. Our vision is to take the same data, the same platform, the same insights and expertise that Lightcast already offers and put those at your fingertips in a new way.”
The finer points are changing fast, but a clear understanding of the overall impact is illuminating. AI is set to touch every corner of the labor market, and that means it’s something everyone involved should be familiar with—both its potential and its pitfalls. The better we understand the technology, at every level, the better prepared we’ll be to create a job market that works for everyone. And for even more insight, explore the Lightcast x AI hub.