AI-Nxiety: Understanding and overcoming the fear of job loss to AI

Overcoming AI-Nxiety: Strategies for Coping with the Fear of Job Loss to Artificial Intelligence

AI-Nxiety, The recent introduction of ChatGPT in mainstream media has re-ignited many old-age conversations about technology replacing jobs. The term “technological unemployment” was first coined as early as the 1930s. And in the middle of the 1800s, workers who moved commodities off ships when they arrived at ports were anxious about grain elevators, while tailors were concerned about the usage of sewing machines. Lamplighters went on strike in the early 1900s because they believed electricity would replace them as the most advanced technology and cost them their jobs. This is how old is the tale of man vs. technology.

AI-anxiety is a very real phenomenon. When looking back on history, the fears regarding AI are understandable but unfortunately completely unwarranted. In the longer run, technology has created more jobs than eliminating them. There will be few jobs that will be replaced and countless more will be generated requiring a new set of skills and aptitudes. The use of tech, AI and automation is inevitable. The key is to understand what exactly these technologies bring to the table and how it, directly and indirectly, affects our capabilities – in both negative and positive aspect.

For both employer and the employee, it’s important to lead and plan with some clear ideologies:

Human identity is not replaceable: An AI tool can help you write social media posts but the marketing professional will still be required to scrutinise the posts for nuances to ensure their maximum impact and avoid any unintended messaging. Similarly, ChatGPT can certainly create job descriptions, respond to employee queries, and analyse data but still an HR professional will be required to ensure there are right people for the right job along with maintaining employee relations at work.

Invest in creating communities: Most of us were exposed to technology during the Covid pandemic whether it was collaborating on team calls or working on shared sheets. Though many organisations reported a rise in productivity during the period, the operations were more transactional and less interpersonal. Social exclusion was on the rise during the said period. So in a digital world, when people feel a sense of belonging, camaraderie and teamwork, they are more likely to stay ahead of their fears. Leaders and organisations need to actively create a culture to stimulate social interactions.

Upskilling and Reskilling should be a mandate: One tried and tested way to lead through any type of uncertainty is to prepare in advance and in this case, acquire new tech skills. As a professional, you need to pivot to new roles quickly. From employers perspective, investment in corporate L&D needs to shoot up as they have consistently shown their positive impact on productivity, profitability and even customer retention.

The Journey from Fear to Enthusiasm

Future of Jobs in India – 2022, an EY report identifies disruptions by exponential technologies as one of the main reasons driving the changes in jobs from how we know them now. The rate of advanced technologies being adopted is so fluent that it is not only creating new markets but weakening/transforming existing market categories and industries through major business innovations. The report also states that 9% of employees would be placed in new positions that don’t exist yet. 37% would be put to work in positions that require drastically different skill sets. 54% will remain in the same occupational category.

There is a still window of 2-3 years before large-scale changes would be visible in the overall job market. For successful personal and business pursuits, embracing tech as it comes is the way to survival. It is imperative to focus on the new opportunities that might crop up on the back of AI and related tech progression. Therefore, even though automation and AI may make human labour unnecessary for any kind of job, humans will still be required to make decisions. And because everything we create and does inspires new aspirations and opens our eyes to new possibilities, this “job” will never be out of the picture.

Note: This article, written by Mr. Sidharth Agarwal, was originally published in Times of India.