Stay awhile and listen… This is important for you. I’m saying this with confidence even though I don’t know a thing about you, as there is no way you can fully isolate yourself from this paradigm change happening right now. And it’s almost a matter of life or death — especially if you’re not particularly rich, or talented at some sport, art, or anything that you can make money for a long time to come.
Actually, you could just read the title and leave it at that, if you can actually make it a guiding principle from now on. At the highest level, what I want you to understand is as simple as that: The future of Artificial Intelligence must be one of the most crucial factors when you’re making any decisions, especially for the ones that will affect your whole life, such as what to study and where to work. However, let me give some further explanation, as I think this will help a bit in convincing you of the significance of this.
By the way, you may wonder: who am I to give advice to you on what to do with your life? Let me be clear in that I don’t claim any kind of particular expertise. I’m a Machine Learning Engineer by profession, but this is not something that will automatically qualify me as a guru or guide on this issue. So I will ask you to simply consider me as a little child, who has noticed a meteor approaching and come to let you know. You don’t need to be an expert in astronomy to see the massive, burning stone in the sky, right? That who I am — an ordinary person that has somehow seen the revolution that will completely transform the world as we know it and feels an implacable need to warn you. And in no way do I claim that my current opinions are the be-all and end-all of this problem—it’s that I just want to start a discussion here, as the silence in the face of the incoming meteor utterly terrifies me.
“Cut it short and come to the point already!”
OK, let me state my axiom which constitutes the reason for all this turmoil:
Every single thing that a human is capable of doing will, within at most 50 years, be also doable by the machines.
Maybe I’m wrong and it’s in fact 40 years, or 60, or whatever… But consider this: Ever notice that the education system and institutes hardly changed for decades? And almost no public figure is talking about a reform, in spite of the exponentially advancing AI? The President of my country is boasting that there are currently 8 million university students, which is almost 10% of all population. I’m pretty sure that the curricula of the departments that most of them are studying have barely changed in a very long time. Yes, they used to teach those things at the times when AI was a subject of science-fiction, and they are teaching the same things right now where AI can easily beat humans at Go and write meaningful stories.
What do you think will happen to those 8 million young people after they graduate, as they have no clue about how to use AI in their professions, not to even mentioned that their jobs can completely be overtaken by machines? And what about hundreds of millions of students worldwide? Working people in a similar position? Will it be too pessimistic of me to think that a humanitarian crisis is awaiting due to widespread unemployment in a very short while?
But that can’t happen, right? Authorities certainly wouldn’t let that. They will find a way. They are smart people who see what we can’t see. They will make the necessary reforms, guide and provide us.
No. They will be passively watching trying to make sense of what’s happening, as they are doing right now. Will maybe desperately rush to do something when it will already be too late. Yeah, there’s no conspiracy here. They are not necessarily evil — it’s more of the ignorance of the ruling class rather than malevolence. They are helpless too. The whole system with that massively complicated web of institutions is just too bulky to move. It resists all attempts to change. No single individual has the power to transform it, so they necessarily play along.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying nobody’s guilty. It’s just that I don’t want to start a rant about the corruption of the elites in this post. I can do that in another one later. As I’ve already stated, my main motivation was opening a discussion to help common people like me choose wisely what they are going to spend their time doing, in order to have a chance to find a place in an AI-dominated world.
“Yeah, great. So will you tell me already what you’re suggesting that I should do? Drop out of school / resign from my job and start from zero, studying AI?”
Not necessarily. Also, please note that there is no single common recipe for everybody in this case. And there are always multiple paths to a happy life. I have already made it clear that I don’t intend to become a guru. I just want to shine some light for you to see what awaits you along all those paths in front of you, if I can. Or, to be more accurate, warn you of the danger awaiting you at the end of some of those, so that you won’t be following them. Among the remaining ones, the choice is up to you.
I don’t want to squish everything in this article. I’m planning to write further on this issue, as it’s certainly worth spending time. But the below examples, I believe, will give you some useful ideas for now:
- Let’s say you are studying medicine, it’s your fourth year or so at the university, you want to be a surgeon, and you have no knowledge about AI whatsoever. OK, stop. Even if you become a top-tier surgeon, how long do you think you will be able to operate more precisely than a machine whose hands won’t ever tremble, or will stay calm even in the face of the most unexpected incidents? Make your research and decide: Would you better start from scratch with another career, or is there a way to use your skills and degree in this new paradigm? You’re the one who needs to decide — just be honest with yourself, and be careful of the sunk cost fallacy.
- What about a student of Law? Well, it’s mostly fine — your profession will probably be here to stay as long as humanity doesn’t descent into total chaos. However, along with many ways you can take advantage of AI (such as summarizing thousands of documents in seconds), have you ever consider the Law of AI? In my opinion it’s such a low-hanging fruit — advising big companies for compliance with AI regulations shouldn’t leave you without work for a very, very long time.
- And for those who work in anything related to IT? Your transition would probably be smoother. But be careful anyway — many things that you may think can’t be automated actually can, such as finding a useful script for a given case and customizing it. You don’t necessarily need to be an ML engineer, but don’t be a code monkey either. There are many areas that will probably require human expertise for a couple of more decades, such as MLOps or DevSecOps. Remember: you would want to be someone who oversees and architects a process —so stay away from manual labor that requires little insight or creativity.
Of course, you may think I’m being a bit naive. For example, what about millions of poor factory workers whose jobs will almost certainly be taken over within a few years? Should they go and educate themselves on AI when they go home after working 12 hours? No, I don’t really know what exactly to suggest to those people — but in my defense, I never claimed that I have all the answers. I hope to continue researching, thinking, and discussing with others on how we, as the humanity as a whole, can “peacefully” transition to the AI-dominated world and still prosper there. But one man’s effort will never be enough.