Preparing Students for Working in an AI World

working in an AI world

A study on labor economics and demography by David Autor and others talks of changing job patterns based on labor-augmenting and labor-automating innovations. This paper published by the National Bureau of Economics Research (NBER) in 2022, points out that positions like webpage designers, software developers, etc., did not exist before the IT revolution. The study further shows that much of the employment growth over the last couple of decades is driven by technology. So, how does work in an AI world differ and how do we prepare students for the challenges of working in an AI world?

working in an AI world
Image courtesy of Forbes

Working in an AI world

Following this trend, AI is bound to cause a radical shift in every imaginable domain in the future. Economists and futurists expect that working in an AI world will require different skills than those needed for the jobs of the past. Students will need more than good grades to make a career for themselves in a world where AI can master many human tasks faster and with no downtime. For instance, the publishing industry already features newspaper articles written entirely by AI and one major factor behind both the actors’ and writers’ strikes is over a future replacing humans with AI.  With the ever-quickening pace of  emerging technologies, students and workers have their work cut out for them if they want fulfilling jobs working in an AI world.

From being regularly apprised of the newest developments in Generative Artificial Intelligence to staying on top of the game in using other AI technologies on the job, faculty and universities as a whole need to discuss strategies students can follow to lay the groundwork for their future in this very different world. After all, AI is a tool that complements human intelligence and creativity but only works when you know how to get the most from the human/ machine interface. As the number of companies seeking to sell prompts for effectively using generative AI shows, this knowledge isn’t intuitive.

Realities of working in an AI world

With the advent of every new chapter in the history of human race, two common questions always crop up: ‘What is the future going to look like?’ and ‘How is this going to affect us?’. With every era, including all three stages of the industrial revolution and the IT revolution of the late 20th century, humans learned to adapt and evolve with the changing times. However, with prior technological changes it took a minimum of two generations for any noticeable change to occur, generative AI is growing at breakneck speed. For instance, ChatGPT surpassed 5 million users in 5-6 days and now has a voice to emulate human conversations.

A comprehensive survey released by Goldman Sachs lists out all the probabilities of generative AI in the future job market and its consequences in global macroeconomics. The report says,

If generative AI delivers on its promised capabilities, the labor market could face significant disruption. Using data on occupational tasks in both the US and Europe, we find that roughly two-thirds of current jobs are exposed to some degree of AI automation, and that generative AI could substitute up to one-fourth of current work. Extrapolating our estimates globally suggests that generative AI could expose the equivalent of 300mn full-time jobs to automation.

In this scenario, the best step forward is to adopt a dynamic mindset, ready to face any changes, in terms of career requirements or shifting disciplines. Although the complexities of technology to this extent are overwhelming, we have plenty of resources to help with that. Students and employees alike can prepare for an AI-powered future by following a few simple steps.

Preparing for an AI future

working in an AI world
Image via Fox Business

Knowledge is power

The more you learn about generative artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other emerging technologies, the more confident you will be to use different AI-powered tools in your domain. Keep yourself updated with changes in market trends and the latest software developments. Experiment with new AI platforms or take a course from new online learning platforms to prepare you for jobs using new trending areas like analysis of big data. Universities must transform their curricula to include more AI-related classes and hire professors with these skills, which will turn the modern university on its head.

Upskilling is the key

If you’re already in a career, study the market and understand the requirements of working in an AI world and how these needs fit your interests. Based on that, list all the technical skills you need to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. Take a look at courses in machine learning, different programming languages, data analysis, etc., to get a better picture of your areas of interest. Several platforms like Hackr and Edx list different courses you can learn online at your own pace.

Stay in touch with your human side

The emphasis on AI in education will help boost knowledge in these critical new areas, but skills such as critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, inter-personal dialogue, and negotiating skills are equally important in preparing for an AI-driven job market. Add elements required in working in conjunction with machines to your training as the future likely requires humans to interact effectively with machines.

Be the explorer

Generative artificial intelligence and its allied fields together form a vast domain with several sub-disciplines like machine learning, robotics, neural networks, natural language processing, etc. Extensive education with AI tools will help you understand these areas with clarity and accuracy. You can very well be the Jack of all domains but be sure to be a master in your favorite one. Attend webinars, online bootcamps, and AI communities to connect with your peers globally to understand the different thought patterns and trends around the world.

Let your mind be OpenAI

Cringy as the caption might sound, one cannot lay more emphasis on the need to be open to perpetual learning and be ready to withstand the constant flux in the AI-driven job market. Adapt to the changing times and accept AI as the reality now. This pushes you to think out of the box and stay updated.

Gather hands-on experience

Robert Greene said, “Practical knowledge is the ultimate commodity, and is what will pay you dividends for decades to come”. This holds water when it comes to AI as well. To gain confidence and mastery, collaborate with AI in short-term projects, build your portfolio, learn how to use machine learning tools, take up internships in relevant organizations, and request seniors and experts for guidance. There are several open-source deep learning tools like Tensor Flow, Theano, etc. Try exploring different AI projects in image processing, AI assistants and chatbots, language learning models, and deep learning frameworks. You can’t break these systems, unlike earlier mechanical devices, so play to your heart’s content without fear. For instance, I used an AI tool to create the new logo for my brand. What do you think?

AI in education

With the huge tides of change sending ripples in the future, institutions and educators have a major role to play in converting the current crop of students into a viable workforce of tomorrow. Students need consistent guidance and mentorship through this transition phase. Providing them access to technology and investing in AI in online learning and education is crucial.

Students require support in pursuing their creative interests and exploring innovative approaches to problem-solving. Inculcating ethical principles and teaching social implications of AI tools would make them responsible users. Institutions can conduct bootcamps, seminars, team-building activities, and incubation centers for innovative ideas using machine learning tools.

It is time to bring in a conscious shift to our approach to education. The traditional mode of theory-based learning will not suffice. Practical and hands-on learning models emphasizing cognitive development and adaptability are the need of the hour.

Take a leap to the present and you see the vast number of AI tools being used in online learning. Gen Z will soon be ready to face the AI-driven job market of the future with the use of artificial intelligence in education. Interestingly, for the upcoming gen Alpha, concepts like these will be as normal as the light of day.

social media in online marketing
Photo by Alex Knight from Pexels

Lastly, institutions and industry experts must help dispel fear in the minds of the current generation about the impact of AI on their careers. With every sweeping change in society, there has been both positive and negative impact as part of the picture. It is true that many mundane and repetitive tasks will be automated, displacing several occupation roles. Yet, at the same time, many new roles would be created. It is up to us to harness its potential and channel it into making this world a better place to live in.

To quote Karin Kimbrough, Chief Economist, LinkedIn,

Ultimately, when we talk about AI’s impact on work, what we are really talking about is how people will adopt these tools and continue to strengthen the people skills that complement them.

Author Bio:

Anjani Vigha is a technical as well as creative content writer at Thinkful, a Chegg service. She is an outgoing person, and you will find her near books, arts and explore the miraculous world of technology. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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