This phrase about AI not taking your job sounds smart — but is it true?

  • An economist has said, "AI won't take your job, it's somebody using AI that will take your job."

  • AI seems to be a positive for many workers, but some roles are more at risk of replacement.

  • Experts advise skilling up and leaning into soft human skills as AI becomes embedded in work life.

You may have heard a version of the phrase, "AI won't take your job, it's somebody using AI that will take your job."

Economist Richard Baldwin said the phrase at the 2023 World Economic Forum's Growth Summit, and variations of it have been mentioned since as people discuss the potential impacts of AI.

Baldwin told BI he wasn't sure if he coined the phrase, but the message is that AI won't replace humans, but it will give those who embrace it an advantage in the workforce.

In the 12 months since Baldwin shared his perspective, interest in artificial intelligence has only increased. A recent survey by consulting firm Bain & Company found that 85% of the companies surveyed said adopting AI was a top-five priority.

As companies ramp up their AI offerings and begin restructuring their workforce, many are revisiting the question of whether AI will be a job killer or an enhancer.

While it's still the early days of AI, we asked experts to weigh in. Should you be more worried about losing your job to a human using AI or to the AI itself?

Workers already see the benefit of AI at this stage

Baldwin said that AI is like a lawn mower or a power drill — it makes your job easier but it doesn't replace the human behind it. Other experts seemed to share a similar mindset that it's not advanced enough to function without direction, and for the most part, it helps people do better at their jobs.

Jasmine Escalera, a career coach at LiveCareer said incorporating AI can help automate repetitive tasks and "free up time to focus on upskilling."

Matt Betts, a research and development lead at leadership consulting firm RHR International, says it helps create efficiency so that consultants can focus on more impactful work, like interacting with the client.

Data has shown a similar trend that AI has helped many workers produce high-quality work in a shorter amount of time.

One study by MIT and Stanford from 2023 found that access to AI increased productivity by 14% on average, with a 34% impact on new or lower-skilled workers. A Morgan Stanley report indicated that workers with multiple income streams who used generative AI to increase their productivity made 21% more on average than those who didn't.

AI may also be helping people land jobs. Career service LiveCareer surveyed 1,150 US workers in March and found that 85% of job seekers save time using AI for writing applications and 40% think AI improves their grammar, writing, and vocabulary.

The loss of some jobs is inevitable

AI has already redefined a number of roles and even if it doesn't take all jobs, it's bound to replace some.

IBM used to have 800 people working in HR and now has 60 because it was able to automate repetitive tasks, according to the company's marketing chief.

Klarna seems to be following a similar trajectory. The company said in a blog post in February that its AI assistant was doing the work of "700 full-time agents" after pumping the brakes on hiring.

OpenAI CTO Mira Murati also weighed in on the topic at a Dartmouth event on June 8 and turned heads when she said some creative jobs may disappear, but those that could be replaced by AI "shouldn't have been there in the first place."

Carl Benedikt Frey, a director of future and work at Oxford University, said that transportation and logistics are most likely to see outright automation moving forward. He also said warehousing, manufacturing, receptionists, cashiers, and translators are also roles that are moving toward automation or semi-automation.

It's a good idea to skill up

A March Goldman Sachs report found over 300 million jobs around the world could be impacted by AI. But it's impossible to predict how exactly they will change.

Career coach Escalera said the best path forward is to lean into human soft skills while skilling up and "adopting a mindset of continuous learning." For some who are hiring, AI is becoming a prerequisite.

Tripadvisor cofounder Steve Kaufer said on "The Logan Bartlett Show" that he asked candidates during interviews if they tried out new AI chatbots. He said software engineers who didn't experiment with AI tools usually didn't get the job.

"I just don't understand it," Kaufer said. "And I probably don't want to work with that individual."

CEO of global event company Empire Entertainment, J.B. Miller, said it's an "essential new skill set," especially in an industry that involves improvising. He said it cuts down time and helps with generating ideas for set designs and talent sourcing. He asks all new hires what AI tools they use.

"There's no world where I could employ somebody who's like, I don't know how to use Excel or I don't know how to navigate the internet or do an internet search or something online like that," Miller said.

"I think that the same is true of some of these basic, AI tools," he added.

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