Will AI take my job blog post header image showing a person sitting at a desk in front of a computer with a concerned look on their face

Will AI take my job?


Given that I spend a large proportion of my time tracking the TIPS (Technologies, Innovations, Patents & Startups) that enable and accelerate change and transformation, it’s no surprise that of late I’ve frequently been asked “so Andrew – will AI take my job?”. 

But this time the person asking the question was curious about the impact of artificial intelligence on MY job in innovation, not their own job.

I’ve held many job titles over the last 35+ years of my professional life but in every single one of them, my role has been one of innovation, change and transformation.

I LOVE change. 

I run towards it.

I welcome it with open arms.

I embrace it.

My insatiable curiosity for the new and different, led me to fall in love with the process of innovation.

BUT, I refuse to get caught up in the hype, either utopian OR dystopian, surrounding any innovation.

AI is not the future, it's the present

AI, or more specifically artificial general intelligence (AGI) is undoubtedly one of the hottest topics right now.

For many people, it seems to have sprung out of nowhere, bringing with it both hoards of experts and swathes of fearmongers. Both of which have caused confusion and not just a little fear – sparking the inevitable “will AI take my job?” question on many people’s minds right now.

As with many innovations, things seem to happen slowly, slowly and then all at once.

The concept of artificial intelligence is not new – TechTarget wrote a good article here if you want a brief history and timeline stretching from the 50’s to today.

But it’s generative ai in the form of Chat GPT, Bard, Claude and others that have entered into mainstream media and the everyday language of everyday people this year.

A large robot head looms over an office worker at her desk

AI needs HI (Human Intelligence)

My feeds are filled with stories of new ways that generative ai tools can be applied to solve problems and do things formally considered to be uniquely human in nature. Like writing poetry, composing songs, creating art and much, much more. 

But the ai’s aren’t doing this of their own volition – they need to be “prompted” to do so, mainly by humans (although increasingly not the case but this is a longer discussion).

This has (temporarily) created a whole new category of job. Do a quick google search for “prompt engineering jobs” and see what the results are. Some of them are even paying decent six figure USD salaries! 

Back when I was in uni in the early 80’s doing a computer science course, our lecturer didn’t let us near a keyboard for the first 3 months of the course. We spent all our time learning how to get the computer to do what we wanted it to do. We wrote algorithms in plain english, which he repeatedly tore to shreds due to our sloppy use of the English language.

You have to be precise. The machine is stupid. It will do EXACTLY what you ask of it, no more, no less” he used to say.

It was an excellent lesson and one that applies just as much to generative ai as it did back then to pascal, COBOL or any other language we were required to code in back then.

Today’s LLMs (Large Language Models) might have access to all the knowledge of humanity, but they have none of the wisdom – the role of the prompt engineer is to get the optimal results from the algorithm – in an attempt to simulate wisdom as it were.

They do this by being painfully precise in the way they structure questions. Their choice of words matter. Context matters. 

If you are interested in the topic, Anna Bernstein is often cited to be the first person coin the phrase “Prompt Engineer” and you can see her 6 top tips in her YouTube video here.

Perhaps one could argue that the question shouldn’t be “will an ai take my job” but rather “when will a prompt engineer take my job”.

But I digress – let me get back to the original question I was asked – will an AI take MY job [in innovation]?

A person with a worried look on their face sitting at a desk contemplating the future

The process of innovation

The person that asked me the question had recently listened to a podcast about using ChatGPT to generate new business ideas – which is what he thought I do.

I said at the beginning of this that I’ve held many job titles in the past. If I was to go back into a corporate role today, the closest job title that aligns with what I do would be that of “Chief Innovation Officer”. 

A Chief Innovation Officer <should> be responsible for enabling and accelerating innovation across the entire organisation.

The department of the Chief Innovation Officer should not be (as sadly is often the case today) the the only department that “does innovative things” and the things that they should be doing should not only be related to “new product development” – which is another common misconception. 

If you want to know more about what the role of an innovation department should be (but often isn’t) then feel free to buy me a beverage and I’ll happily share my thoughts.

You might have missed my very specific choice of words at the start when I said I fell in love with “the process of innovation“.

The process of innovation consists of a wide range of activities including (and this is by no means an exhaustive list):

  • understanding the current landscape, including the current and future challenges faced by the organisation and industry
  • horizon scanning and trendwatching
  • considering the impacts and implications of the above
  • sharing all of the above across the ecosystem and soliciting feedback
  • ideation and opportunity evaluation
  • community development, knowledge sharing and co-creation
  • idea management and innovation governance
  • innovation enablement including hypothesis testing / skunkworks / labs
  • sharing lessons learned, developing best practises and frameworks

Ideation is just one of the activities in the entire process of innovation and yes, AI can be extremely useful in this part of the process. It can be a great way to generate ideas and take you down new and interesting paths – but it should never be the only source of ideas.

I frequently use AI in what I do and I’m constantly looking out for opportunities to automate the repetitive and sometimes tedious parts of the process. I also explore how I can use AI as an ally, to help me do my job better – giving me superpowers!

But, by far the biggest part of what I do and what an innovation department should be doing involves people.

Ideas are nothing without execution.

If you’ve ever tried to change anything, you will know that the biggest barriers and obstacles that get in the way of getting things done are processes, biases, beliefs, behaviours, internal politics, attitudes, emotions …… the very essence of what makes us human.

Inspiring, cajoling, understanding and overcoming fears and biases, motivating, guiding, mentoring, helping unlock their capabilities and clearing out the obstacles in their path. All of which requires human interaction and human context.

Could an AI do any of that today?

Possibly some of it.

I’ve heard about AI coaches and motivational apps that are allegedly more empathetic than humans. But these require willingness to engage from the human ………

I can’t envisage the “stuck in their ways” middle manager, desperately trying to keep everything the same as it was, firing up a motivational app anytime soon in order to see the proposed new innovation that will completely revolutionise their work in a different light.

I spent a day at the CogX festival in London talking to AI startup founders and listening to keynotes and panel discussions from thought leaders in the field. 

An AI could probably ingest the videos and transcripts from the day but without being “the human in the room” they would miss the context – the crowd reactions, the enthusiasm, the dreams, the visions, the unwritten and unspoken elements of the day that are uniquely human.

Taking the very short list of innovation activities I’ve outlined above into account and considering the question “will AI take my job” my response is “not just yet”.

Will AI take your job?

But what about you?

If you’re currently thinking “will ai take my job?”, I urge you to consider what activities and tasks your job is comprised of.

If elements of your job are mundane and repetitive, they will probably be automated very soon. That’s mostly what the last (current?) wave of digital transformation is all about.

What’s left of your job after that’s been taken out? 

What elements of your job are uniquely human and require HI (Human Intelligence) to do?

Could you make use of an AI to help you do that bit better? 

In 2018 I wrote a short story (free download on the link) in which I repeated a slide I had seen which said:-

In the future there will only be 3 jobs:

  1. People who tell robots what to do
  2. People who are told what to do by robots
  3. Robot repair

I can’t tell you if an AI will take your job anytime soon. But I would advise you not to wait until it does. Focus on the parts of your job that are uniquely human and look for ways in which AI can help you to become superhuman.

(All the images in this post were created by an AI, prompted by a human, me.)