AI Skeptic or Enthusiast? Why Not Both?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been identified as a 21st century “megatrend” by influential voices across all industries and sectors. Yet, simultaneously, AI has been touted as both a panacea to virtually any problem in any field, as well as the source of humankind’s demise. “AI will push us to boundless innovation,” “AI will go rogue,” – across the industry, there remains a mix of skepticism and fear on how AI will specifically impact us as individuals. This is especially true in the IT industry, where practitioners and technology partners worry about how their jobs will be affected by an AI-dominated future. Given the uncertain, ambiguous and often inflated claims seen in AI marketing, this trepidation is understandable. In fact, with any new technology, some skepticism is healthy. The advent of every new technology brings a natural progression through the hype cycle.

AI is already here in more ways than we realize. Yes, we still have to hold the steering wheel of our cars, even though Teslas have driven themselves tens of miles without intervention on many occasions, but we do have mature AI assistants at home—e.g., Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant—that we can almost consistently rely on when our hands are too busy to reach our phones. We don’t have full-on autonomous replacements for our work, but we do have AI tools and applications that will help save time, simplify processes and improve how we work.

The most immediate concern is that AI will eliminate jobs. The World Economic Forum’s 2020 Future of Jobs Report concluded that by 2025, “85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labor between humans and machines.” However, that same report also stated that 97 million new roles were expected to emerge. These roles would be “more adapted to the new division of labor between humans, machines and algorithms.” The real story behind those numbers is a transition in how we work, not a lack of work to be done. As Nick Hanauer said, “Technology is the solution to human problems. We won’t run out of work until we run out of problems.”

That story of transition, not replacement, plays out in a Harvard Business Review article, Why Robots Won’t Steal Your Job. When looking at the jobs of tomorrow, the article lists network professionals, information security analysts, IoT specialists, project managers, site reliability engineers, technology analysts and more set to grow alongside AI adoption.

This highlights a bright future for not only IT practitioners, but also for consultants and MSPs. The AI landscape is new and businesses will look to partners for help in navigating it. If not well thought out, integration and adoption of new AI solutions can be just as, if not more complicated than the deployment of any other technology. Businesses must skill up their workforces – and fast – in order to realize the benefits of AI and alleviate the talent gap crisis that many organizations are facing. In addition to creating new AI challenges to solve, AI will also help partners scale existing solutions as they leverage it to serve more customers while delivering even better experiences.

The IT industry will become more specialized and more valuable as AI takes over repetitive tasks, opening up time and an opportunity to pursue more strategic and high-level activities. Working alongside AI will usher in an emphasis on skills and flexibility. Practitioners won’t have to understand the nuts and bolts of algorithm tuning or data modeling, but they will have to know how to harness the insights that AI provides. Good AI tools will be intuitive to use, emphasizing empowering the human to focus on the most impactful work.

AI is here to stay. While fear is a natural reaction to change, we believe that even the most die-hard AI skeptics will eventually come around to see the upside as their roles, businesses and lives are improved. Whether you’re among the cautious or the enthusiastic, we’re excited to dive deeper into the concerns that AI raises for the IT industry together, so please join us for the conversations.

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