The threat that automation will eliminate a broad swath of jobs, across the world economy is now well established. As artificial intelligence (AI) systems become ever more sophisticated, another wave of job displacement will almost certainly occur.
It can be a distressing picture.
But here’s what we’ve been overlooking: Many new jobs will also be created — jobs that look nothing like those that exist today.
In Accenture’s global study of more than 1,000 large companies already using or testing AI and machine-learning systems, we identified the emergence of entire categories of new, uniquely human jobs. These roles are not replacing old ones. They are novel, requiring skills and training that have no precedents.
More specifically, our research reveals three new categories of AI-driven business and technology jobs. We label them trainers, explainers, and sustainers. Humans in these roles will complement the tasks performed by cognitive technology, ensuring that the work of machines is both effective and responsible — that it is fair, transparent, and auditable.
This first category of new jobs will need human workers to teach AI systems how they should perform — and it is emerging rapidly. At one end of the spectrum, trainers help natural-language processors and language translators make fewer errors. At the other end, they teach AI algorithms how to mimic human behaviors.
The second category of new jobs will bridge the gap between technologists and business leaders. Explainers will help provide clarity, which is becoming all the more important as AI systems’ opaqueness increases. Many executives are uneasy with the “black box” nature of sophisticated machine-learning algorithms, especially when the systems they power recommend actions that go against the grain of conventional wisdom. Indeed, governments have already been considering regulations in this area. For example, the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation, which is slated to take effect in 2018, will effectively create a “right to explanation,” allowing consumers to question and fight any decision made purely on an algorithmic basis that affects them.
The final category of new jobs our research identified will help ensure that AI systems are operating as designed — and that unintended consequences are addressed with the appropriate urgency. In our survey, we found that less than one-third of companies have a high degree of confidence in the fairness and auditability of their AI systems, and less than half have similar confidence in the safety of those systems. Clearly, those statistics indicate fundamental issues that need to be resolved for the continued usage of AI technologies, and that’s where sustainers will play a crucial role.