Artificial intelligence is poised to transform the workplace, with one report suggesting it could replace as many as 300 million full-time jobs. Tulane University workplace and management expert Jasmijn Bol says the changes ahead could be as transformative as the Industrial Revolution. Bol, the Francis Martin Chair in Business at Tulane’s A. B. Freeman School of Business, discusses who’s at risk and how workers must adapt to embrace the opportunities and challenges of AI.

Will people lose their jobs because of AI?

Jasmijn Bol: Yes, some people will lose their jobs because of AI. However, because of AI, there will also be a lot of job creation. Some even say that the Age of AI will actually create more jobs than it will replace. The jury is still out on that one, but what is true for sure is that we are living in a transformative era, much like the industrial revolution. The Industrial Revolution had profound and transformative effects on the economy, society and daily life. It reshaped industries, impacted labor markets and prompted discussions about ethics and societal well-being. I expect nothing less for the Age of AI, which we are currently living in. 

What type of tasks will AI take over?

JB: AI is already starting to take over those tasks that can be automated, meaning that they are repetitive, rule-based, data-driven and computation-heavy activities. This is because AI can quickly process large volumes of data, identify complex patterns and perform calculations more efficiently than humans. Some examples of the tasks being taken over are data analysis, pattern recognition, routine administrative tasks and manufacturing and assembly line tasks.  

Will other types of jobs be “saved” from AI?

JB: While AI may not fully replace certain jobs, it will undoubtedly impact various professions differently. AI will not completely take over many careers but instead, be transformed by its integration. For instance, consider the medical field. AI excels in identifying abnormalities in diagnostic scans like X-rays and MRIs, often outperforming experienced experts. This makes AI a valuable tool for medical image analysis, enhancing accuracy and efficiency. However, AI only complements doctors’ expertise by enabling more efficient diagnoses. Doctors have uniquely human skills (tacit knowledge, creativity and critical thinking) that go beyond pattern recognition and remain crucial for patient care.

What does this mean for education and educators?

JB: Educators will need to train and develop these uniquely human skills. Experiential learning, the educational approach that emphasizes learning through direct experiences and active engagement with real-world situations rather than solely relying on traditional classroom instruction or theoretical concepts, is critical to development.

Does this mean technical skills are no longer necessary?

JB: No, students should still develop their technical skills. AI is like a calculator. We still teach our children how to add and subtract because these are the fundamentals on which more complicated math is based. The same goes for other types of technical skills. Without the technical skills, students won’t have the foundational knowledge to oversee the automation process and discover and correct any problems. When harmoniously integrated with human skills, technical skills lead to well-rounded professionals who can confidently address challenges, innovate and make informed decisions in an increasingly automated world.

How should students and professionals prepare?

JB: Embrace AI so it can free up your time for those things that you are especially good at and enjoy. Let AI automate your tedious tasks. Understand its capabilities, identify opportunities for its application and adapt to its integration into various aspects of your personal and professional life.