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Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Professional Work

By Mari Sako

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 63 No. 4, Pages 25-27

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If you are a software engineer or a data scientist, your job did not exist a century ago. A century from now, your job will most likely look quite different. One driving force behind such work transformation is artificial intelligence (AI). Dwelling on the nearer term, the next decade or two, projections on the proportion of today's jobs that are susceptible to automation vary enormously—from 9% (in OEDC countries)2 and 47% (of 702 occupations)7 to 96% (740 out of 769 occupations).6,8,9 Why is there such wide variation? What makes it difficult to predict with greater precision? And should we alter the way we think about jobs, given that better education is no longer a protection against risk of technological unemployment? This column addresses these questions, so that we might make better decisions about the future of work for our children and grandchildren.

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History of Automation and Its Impact on Jobs Before AI

We are in the midst of the so-called fourth Industrial Revolution that fuses advances in AI, robotics, the Internet of Things, 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other technologies to bring about enormous improvements in efficiency and productivity. A brief historical review of how technologies in the earlier industrial revolutions affected work helps trace implications for the current industrial revolution.


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