Will AI steal your job?

“Well, there goes my job!” That was the answer of a financial analyst friend of mine when she used one of the financial analysis plug-ins of GPT 4. Indeed, these days many people go through a roller coaster of emotions regarding the future of their careers. Recently the Inc. released a survey of 31,000 employees, showing 49 percent fear A.I. will steal their jobs. Admittedly, I was one of those people. As a knowledge worker, I had to consider my professional value proposition long and hard. As usual, I delved into the depths of psychology. to understand the mindset and the motivation of my clients. And I am here to give you a bit of good news!

The fear that AI could replace knowledge jobs often fails to consider one critical factor: the mindset of the client, who will be relying on such tools. Let me illustrate this by borrowing an analogy from our everyday life. 

Why do Clients Still Prefer Human Expertise over AI?

We’ve all watched at least one YouTube tutorial about something. From fixing the leaking faucet to changing a car’s oil, the internet is bursting with “Do-It-Yourself” videos. But even with all this information at our fingertips, most of us would rather pay someone else to write a code or fix a broken appliance. Why is that? The reason lies in our individual psychology, attitudes toward risk, and unique traits!

Doing stuff yourself isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Many people prefer the comfort of hiring a specialist who brings expertise and reliability. Others lack the time, interest, or confidence to delve into tasks outside their comfort zone, even if all the guidance they need is just a click away. It is clear that the DIY requires a certain mindset. You need confidence, self-efficacy, curiosity, autonomy, creativity, resilience, practicality, and the desire for accomplishment. Not to mention, you need to be willing to risk making mistakes. Are those qualities universally admired? Yes. Are they common? Absolutely not!

How Can Knowledge Workers Outshine AI?

Now, let’s apply this idea to the world of knowledge jobs. There are myriad AI tools out there that can do things like data analysis, copywriting, and even provide financial advice -as in my friend’s case. What we need to understand, however, is that using these tools is like a DIY project. It requires learning, adapting, and a certain comfort level with trying new things and possibly messing up a bit along the way. Not every client is into that. As a matter of fact, very few clients are into that! As long as you play your cards right, AI won’t steal your job. But how?

Let’s think of it this way. Why do your clients hire you? Because they have a job to be done – but they don’t necessarily have the specific knowledge or skills needed to complete the task. So you are dealing with people who don’t know why they are in that position or how to get out of it. And borrowing from the DIY mindset, your clients most likely won’t bother amassing vast knowledge to solve their problems. That’s why as a subject-matter expert, your greatest advantage over an AI tool is knowing the right questions to ask. Einstein once said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” This brings us to your second advantage.

Mastering AI for a Thriving Career

Maybe some of your clients have the desire, confidence and curiosity to use an AI tool that could replace your job. But do they have time to learn and perform the task themselves? They say time is money, and it’s true. The time the client would take to master an AI tool could be better spent elsewhere. That’s why as a knowledge worker, your second advantage over an AI tool is ensuring they spend their time wisely.

Finally, it’s one thing for a car washing experiment to go awry and yet another to screw up a financial analysis. Your clients hire you because they want professional results, not half-measure solutions. Especially in complex matters, most clients would opt to let the pros handle the tricky stuff. And that’s your third advantage over an AI tool: the expertise, experience, and assurance of a job well done. 

To reiterate, using AI tools is akin to a DIY project. Not everyone has the mindset for it – most clients don’t. They want professionals to do the job. That much is clear. The question is, how can you – as a knowledge worker- navigate the AI tide? 

It’s simple. Keep pace with AI developments. This is crucial for a few reasons. First, knowing how to use these tools enables you to provide clients with the best of both worlds: the creativity of a human brain and the efficiency of AI. Second, you using the latest technology would reassure your clients that they’re in capable hands.

The interest and the desire to use AI aren’t there.

AI is an innovation, and we know that new ideas, products, or technologies spread and become adopted by people in a predictable fashion. We can liken it to a ripple effect: first, a few adventurous individuals (innovators) try something new. They make up 2% of the general population. Then it catches the attention of early adopters (%10) who are open to new ideas. As more people become interested and use it, the idea gradually spreads to the majority (%35) until it becomes a common and widely accepted part of society. That process often follows a trajectory.

According to Pew Research Center, 18% of U.S. adults have heard a lot about ChatGPT, 39% have heard a little, and 42% have heard nothing at all. However, few U.S. adults have used ChatGPT for any purpose. Just 14% of all U.S. adults say they have used it for entertainment, to learn something new, or for their work. This lack of uptake is in line with a Pew Research Center survey from 2021 that found that Americans were more likely to express concerns than excitement about the increased use of artificial intelligence in daily life. To sum up, Yes, the awareness is there. But the interest and the desire to take action aren’t.

You can’t stop the future

Let’s end with this thought: there are way more DIY admirers out there than there are actual DIY-ers. Sure, your clients might be intrigued by a shiny new AI tool. They might even dabble in it, taking it for a quick test drive. But when it comes to entrusting their vital projects to a tool they barely understand and don’t have the time or the inclination to master – it’s highly unlikely.

It all boils down to one simple truth – people rely on people because humans offer expertise, intuition, and reliability. As a knowledge worker, you are -and will continue to be irreplaceable. Not because AI tools are inefficient but because our clients aren’t DIY-ers in our field. And that’s precisely where your strength lies. But with one condition.

You must embrace AI advancements, understand them, and use them to your advantage. After all, the more you know, the more value you can offer. And in the grand scheme of things, isn’t that why you do what you do?

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