Is AI Taking Our Jobs?
By Ojuolape & Opeyemi.
In 2013, a research paper predicted that low-skill workers would have to acquire tasks considered non-susceptible to computerisation, such as creative and social skills. Almost a decade later, the goalpost has shifted.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has gained more exposure recently, especially generative models. But as it progresses, what will it mean for job security and the current labour market as a whole?
Join Ojuolape & her guest, Opeyemi, a Project Manager and Data Analyst with a record of successful projects and data. He’s also a big lover of compounding knowledge and can't go a week without eating fried chicken.
*This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Ojuolape Kuti: Ope, what do you do? What does your day at work look like?
Opeyemi Ademola: I’m a project manager. Also a data analyst. My full-time job entails managing language-related projects. I like technology: building resources and software related to language, speech and voice. An example is Google Assistant, which we use to communicate using voice. I also work as a cultural consultant. So I work on different projects.
Ojuolape: That's quite an eclectic mix. You mentioned languages; how did that happen for you?
Opeyemi: When I worked in a PR Company at some point, I noticed then that the way we promoted was based more on localisation. That made me understand that we can invest in so many creative opportunities within Nigeria. Eventually, a couple of my friends and I came together and started a language-teaching platform. In the process, I also started building more interesting technology, a part of Google. I didn't study linguistics. I simply started relating with people in the linguistic world and acquiring a series of knowledge certificates.
Ojuolape: So, let’s chat about AI. I mean, it's been getting a lot of attention recently, such as ChatGPT and DALL-E. What are your immediate thoughts?
Opeyemi: I’d say AI is a good and bad thing. Here’s my main question: will we need or use this product in the next five to six years? I think more attention needs to be paid to timeless products that solve real problems.
When it comes to marketing, for example, it can never be like the human interaction we connect with. Can it appeal to human emotion? I’m yet to find an answer to that or be convinced.
Ojuolape: As a data analyst, do you think AI will take tech jobs, yours, for example?
Opeyemi: With AI, our jobs can still be ours but enhanced, such as helping us multitask, solve problems faster etc. It also depends on the industry. Because, for example, more technical and manual roles still require human input.
Ojuolape: Now, tell me something a little bit harder: for anyone who wants to transition into tech, does it feel like an already sinking ship?
Opeyemi: There’s still space for anyone to come in. With product managers, for example, you still need to help build these products, even the ones that enable AI. As a creative though, I think it’s important to upskill and become very good at what you do such that you’re preferred. It’s definitely more pressure.
I recently heard about Tesla having issues and stocks going down. It’s humans that’ll need to solve these backend problems: logistics, business and so on.
Ojuolape: This segues nicely to my next question: how can we prepare for/work with AI?
Opeyemi: In the language space, there’s something we call conversational AI. It’s why we can chat with bots on particular websites. It’s very useful, but it’s not like human interaction for customer service because there could be peculiar customer issues. AI should help to ease human stress, such as categorising complaints etc. That’s the essence of AI.
We can work with it as it reduces some workload to optimise our contribution.
Ojuolape: So, is there a flip side? Maybe AI can also create jobs that didn't exist before.
Opeyemi: Yes, yes. An example is the need for ethics and regulation. Who/what cross-checks AI writing essays for students? Because even in the recent past, project management was largely for construction workers. So new roles begin to crop up as industries expand.
Ojuolape: Do you think Africa isn’t involved in this wave?
Opeyemi: No, Africa is. A lot more of what we produce here is solution-based because of the many peculiar problems we face.
Ojuolape: Perhaps we just don’t have the luxury to create random things.
Opeyemi: Exactly. Also, most investors obviously are more drawn to what will make the most money, which is understandable.
With Africa, we need to improve our positioning and marketing, especially locally.
Ojuolape: I was going to joke about how we should all go back to lounging and let AI do all the hard work.
Opeyemi: Haha yes, but what kind of society would that be? AI comes with its own challenges, so we’ll always have work to be done.
I understand the concern about AI and losing jobs, but I don’t think there’s currently much to worry about.
For me, I’m more concerned about building products that solve real-life problems. An example is how much of these technologies take people with disabilities into consideration. I feel these are some of the more pressing issues rather than entertainment-based AI products.
Ojuolape: Bonus fire section: what’s something you’ve been loving recently? (song, article, book etc.?)
Opeyemi: Competing in the Age of AI: Strategy and Leadership When Algorithms and Networks Run The World by Marco Iansiti and Karim R. Lakhani.
Phew. Quite the mouthful.