Will artificial intelligence really put me out of a job?

As AI is starting to make real progress, there is a large appetite to understand where it might be taking us. Toby Walsh, a leading researcher in Artificial Intelligence, will help us understand why AI is making headlines today and why we appear to be making such significant progress. He will also discuss where AI might take us and what AI is not yet capable of, and probably won’t be capable of for some time to come. Finally, he will provide a panorama of what the associated societal risks are, and how AI is both part of the problem and most likely part of the cure.

Conversation notes

  • Why are we making more progress with AI now than ever before?
  • What are the current limitations of AI?
  • It will take a long time before machines get as intelligent as us, let alone more intelligent than us. Machines are very slow learners.
  • What can we do with AI now?
  • We will spend more and more time interacting with machines. AI is the operating system of the future. We will all benefit greatly.
  • One thing we should worry about very soon is the impact that AI will have on employment.
  • What’s left for humans if machines are also doing the cognitive tasks?
  • We are going to have to change our society in radical ways to deal with the change.
  • The future is not fixed. The future is the product of decisions we as a society make We get to choose the future we want to live in.


“Life-long education is going to be the only way we keep ahead of machines. We have to ensure we have a society that ensures that everyone has the ability and freedom to keep on re-skilling themselves so that they keep themselves employable.”


You’ve heard all the talk about robots taking over our jobs, especially following the Oxford University report that stated that 47% of all jobs are at risk of being replaced by artificial intelligence within the next 20 years. This has, understandably, put fear into many people.

Is this fear justified? Maybe

Professor Toby Walsh is one of the world’s leading researchers in artificial intelligence. In his presentation, Professor Walsh stated that he believes the Oxford report claims are, “Rubbish”. There is a lot more to it than that.

Robots can only do what they are programmed to do. Although machine learning is already possible, there is a way to go to match the complex learning ability of the human mind.

Will Artificial Intelligence take my job?

Probably. Some sooner than others. It’s already happening with jobs that involve low cognitive skills and lots of repetition. As AI speed and functionality improve, there will be less of these jobs around. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t have a job. It’s more likely to mean that the nature of your job will change. You will be able to spend your time doing tasks that robots are nowhere near being able to do.

That’s partly because robots aren’t good at multi-tasking or making judgement calls. Maybe they can perform a series of related tasks, but not something radically different, such as drive a car and decide to hire or fire someone at the same time.

Many jobs will evolve rather than disappear. Journalists won’t be bogged down with sports or financial reports, instead, they’ll be able to focus on original and insightful work. Creative, non-menial jobs that involve social and emotional intelligence will be around for many years yet.

Will AI take my children’s jobs?

Well, yes and no, depending on how you look at it. If you’re expecting that your child will go to uni and become an accountant, or lawyer, then yes. These jobs are already well on the way to becoming redundant – in their current form. However, taking out the repetitive aspects of jobs like these is already leading to new opportunities in consulting. People want to deal with people when it comes to getting advice or building strategic partnerships.

There are two other factors to consider here. Firstly. most of the jobs that will be around in 20 years’ time have not even been conceived yet. There will always be jobs, we just don’t know what they will involve other than that they will constantly evolve. Therefore, your children will need to know how to keep adapting to new jobs. We already know that today’s school-leavers will have an average of 17 different jobs in their lifetime, and that’s a good thing. They’ll be continuously building on their skills which will lead them in all sorts of interesting directions.

The other factor is that you’re presuming they will need to go to uni in the first place. Technology is changing the very nature of education so much that most formal learning will take place online and will be done in short bursts as needed. The social aspects of education will take place in other ways.

So, your children will be safe, but if your job’s future is looking doubtful, where does that leave you now? The answer to that lies in your mindset. If you believe that you are too old to learn, or that you are ‘not good on computers’, then you’ll need to do some serious thinking around how well these beliefs still serve you. That’s not easy to do, but it is something you will need to consider at some point soon.

What future will you choose?

You won’t be the only one in that boat, though. There are already many services and resources around to help people in your position re-train, so take advantage of them. Look for community-based computer literacy courses, online courses such as those offered by Udemy, or book an appointment with a career counsellor or coach. As Professor Walsh said in his presentation, “The future is not fixed … The future is a product of the decisions we, as a society, make today. We get to choose the future we want to live in.” What choices are you prepared to make?


Toby’s Linkedin: Toby Walsh

Toby’s Twitter: @tobywalsh

UNSW: cse.unsw.edu.au/~tw/

Toby’s Book: It’s Alive! Artificial Intelligence from the Logic Piano to Killer Robots

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This episode forms part of our 2018 series narrative, ‘The Art of Focus’ which is based on the premise that, in an information-dense society, our attention resources have become depleted. The series’ speakers will help us identify and explore the areas in our lives where we may need to regain focus, increase our self-awareness and improve how we interact with those around us.

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