Understanding Artificial Intelligence and its Effect on the Job Market

Earliest Signs

In the 15th Century in the Netherlands, if you were a weaver, it was a manual skill you learned from your mother, and she from hers.  It was a coarse-weave you created, but it was the only thing available.  At least, that was so until the steam or water-powered textile loom came along and took away a large part of your livelihood.

That technological behemoth could turn out high quality, finely woven cloth by the yard…by the mile!  That was “automation”—and its first big impact on human labor.

People have railed at automation in the past, and these weavers were said to have thrown their wooden shoes (sabot) into the machines in protest.  It may not be true, but it could possibly be where we get the word “sabotage”.

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There is a Difference

We need to make a distinction here.  Automated Manufacture (AM) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are two completely different concepts, and that must be perfectly clear.

Automation is not an intelligent process.  It does eliminate some jobs (usually very difficult ones), but also creates many others.  The machines must be maintained by someone, and usually more is produced, so it must be sold, shipped, and handled, requiring more people.

Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, is a simulation of human thought process by a program designed to take unregulated input, interpret it in a human-centric context, and respond as a human would.  For example:

A pair of empty paint cans come down twin conveyor belts, heading for two filling stations—one automated, the other controlled by AI.  On the AM side, the can comes to a stop under a spigot when it hits a solenoid switch.  The AM dispenses one gallon of paint, applies a lid, and presses it closed before sending it on to the labeling machine.

On the AI line, the conveyor is halted when a camera recognizes that a paint-can has arrived.  It follows it protocols, fills the can, puts a lid on it, and sends it off to the labeling machine.  The net effect is the same, however…

Let’s imagine that the cans fell over, or that they are upside down.  Now what happens?  The AM machine is going to pump a gallon of paint and make a mess.  The AI machine will not.

It has been trained to react to problems.  Maybe it has an air-powered piston that will kick the can into a “reject” container.  If it is really sophisticated, it may have a system to rotate a can under its scanner until it recognizes that the can is oriented properly before proceeding with the operation.  In either case, no paint was wasted, no mess was made, and the company saved money.

There are lots of examples of routine, middle-skilled jobs that involve relatively structured tasks, and those are the jobs that are being eliminated the fastest. Those kinds of jobs are easier for our friends in the artificial intelligence community to design robots to handle them. They could be software robots; they could be physical robots—Erik Brynjolfsson; American Academic, Professor /Director at MIT

AI Learning

As AI advances, it can be left on its own to experiment (either in reality or in simulations; it has no way to tell the difference).  It has massive speed and infinite patience so it can try every possible combination within the parameters given by its human teacher.

After thousands and thousands of tries, it learns to group certain actions together that lead to success, and eliminate strategies that always fail.  This is the way humans learn, too.

Advantages

A sufficiently indoctrinated AI is called an “Expert System”.  Consider an AI programmed with all the knowledge, techniques, and strategies of the top 20 Thoracic Surgeons in the entire world.  That would be great if the International Space Station had a remote Robotic Surgeon and an astronaut had appendicitis.  And that’s only 250 miles.  How about that same unit (dozens of copies) all over the world run from a central location, or each being discrete and autonomous?

That expertise can cover any field from auto mechanics to particle physics, but it can go a step further and freely combine the knowledge of one field with another in order to make new connections and extrapolations that humans might not make for years, centuries, or ever.  The fact is that a hacker doesn’t know what an electrician knows, who doesn’t know what a gardener knows, who doesn’t know what an electronics engineer knows, and so on…  Blending of knowledge could remove most of the impediments to our progress.

For example, we talk about esoteric materials—like Carbon Nanotubes—being necessary to build a “space elevator”.  We require a material strong enough to support its own weight from Geo-stationary Orbit all the way down to the surface of the Earth so that a ride into space would cost between $1-3.00 per kilogram, instead of our current price of up to $20,000 per kilogram via rocket.

That’s all very noble, but it is difficult to accomplish.  Scientists have been working on this for decades and still haven’t come up with an answer.  An AI might be able to solve the problem in weeks or months.  Maybe we already have the knowledge for anti-gravity, warp drive, or teleporters, but it is spread over dozens of fields and professions, and might never be discovered because there are so many barriers to understanding between disciplines.

Disadvantage—You’ll have to learn

Jobs like data entry and server maintenance have the potential for going the way of the dinosaur.  These are easy tasks for early and basic artificial intelligence programs.

If you want to go into the field of artificial intelligence yourself, it’s going to be necessary to study things like statistics, robotics, and algebra.  There are even courses of study arising in our educational institutions.  Do your research to make sure that they are not just pandering and are actually offering something of value.

If you want to stick to the more familiar things, then Data Science is probably a very good bet.  We’re still going to need human minds to figure out how to sort Big Data to get the most use out of it.  So make sure you understand things like Ruby, Python, Hadoop, SQL, Java, and JavaScript, of course.

Jobs will go, but new ones will arise

AI will displace workers—there is no doubt—but people already working in Tech will have a relatively easy time of upgrading their skills to remain relevant.  For people outside of tech, there are still opportunities.

The job of teaching AIs how to understand spoken English is falling to actual English teachers.  By simply expanding their skills a tiny bit in the computer field, they suddenly become a much-desired commodity in the world of computer AI development.

If you step back and look at technology from every era, it has displaced jobs but also created a lot of jobs—Ginni Rometty; American Businesswoman, President/CEO of IBM

It’s only going to get better

AI will eventually be able to spot a cyberattack in mere microseconds, and end it.  Right now, however, security is a great field to be working in.  Some employees still make poor judgments like open unexpected e-mail attachments, or follow links to unvetted websites.  And, as with anything new, IoT, or the Internet of Things, is exposing us to a brand new collection of vulnerabilities.

In the latter case, the camera which you have covering your inside front door so that you can see when the kids get home from school—it might be hackable and accessible to anyone in your neighborhood.  The same is true for that nanny-cam you keep in the children’s bedroom “just in case”.  If you can write code that delivers unhackable IoT devices so parents know that strangers aren’t watching their children, you’ll have a job for life.

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The Takeaway

Knowing that change is coming, and is inevitable, is what will allow you to be prepared.  Don’t wait until the last moment.  If what you are doing now is likely to change substantially, start building your adaptation strategy immediately.  This is all the warning you are likely to get so take advantage of it!

More from Stewart Cooper & Coon:  Tech Employment Opportunities Still Ranked Near the Top in U.S.

Tips for Brainstorming a New Career Path

Time and Change

Sometimes we become so overly-involved in our established paths and daily routines that a day may come when you lift your head and wonder, “What am I doing?” Sooner or later (and sometimes more than once) we most all arrive at such a crossroads. This is a time for reflection if not a stern reevaluation of just what we’re doing with our lives. Beyond the childhood ambitions of becoming a firefighter or astronaut, deciding what exactly you want to do with your career is, most often than not, a rather daunting prospect.

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This is because, unlike our childhood selves, we have come to see that life is a journey of many detours, rather than a singular destination resulting in automatic happiness and contentment. Additionally, personalities and interests and talents may develop with time, and preferences frequently change. Colloquially speaking, you may have utterly loathed broccoli as a child, and it may well now be your favorite food. What changed, other than time and experience?

And so it is the same for professional careers. Naturally, the financial incentive plays a powerful role in one’s decisions of what path to take. There is, however, so much more to that equation if you want a career that is not only lucrative, but fulfilling and personally rewarding. There is no unwritten rule that says you can’t take pleasure in your work; in fact, the most productive and rewarding careers are those that intersect both passion and professional performance.

Strategy

With this in mind, how then, does one go about searching for the career that best suits individual interests and goals? The first good notion is fairly simple: Isolate keywords that align with your strongest professional experience and perform some basic online searches based upon those areas. Extrapolate a little and develop a touch creative. For example, if your work history is in sales, begin searching for and targeting fields which overlap with your technical expertise. If you have some computer skills, you could then try searching for “technical marketing”. The combinations are nearly infinite.

In all, it comes down to a matter of both strategy and approach. To take the refinement even further, consider some of the following questions:

  • What are your ideal work days/hours?
  • What kind of activities would you most enjoy throughout the day?
  • What manner of office or corporate culture most suites your preference?
  • What kind of people do you want to be working and collaborating with?

The answers to these questions will help you continue to filter as well as enhance your professional aspirations. The greater clarity you can put down on paper for your ideal match, the finer the returns will be for the companies that match the profile, and subsequently you can demonstrate why you would be such an excellent fit for their openings.

More from Stewart Cooper & CoonWhat To Look For In A Job Posting

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Wrapping Up

When it comes down to it, you have to really consider not only what you want, but what you don’t. If a company profile or history strikes you negatively, think twice before investing your time into it.

More so, remember that any choice you make is just a single step forward, not the whole game. Therefore, don’t become overly preoccupied with the notion that this new transition is going to a ‘forever’ choice. Rather, be aware that it could well just amount to few years of good experience and powerful new networking, or even just a springboard, which is equally valuable. There’s always tomorrow; so make it a good one.

More from Stewart Cooper & Coon: Making Your Dream Job a Reality

 

Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Four Proactive Ways to Reflect on Your Workday

We all experience those days at work when we feel we could have reached an additional goal, made more efficient use of our time, or just generally performed better. While we would prefer that every day be a victory, there are always tactics that can help ensure a better tomorrow.  What is most important is that we are realistic with ourselves without being harshly critical. Even after a great day at work, it’s still a good idea to assess the day’s events to boost future learning.

So, how do successful people reflect following a long day at the office? Kat Boogaard is an author specializing in careers and self-development, as well as contributor to The Muse and Inc.com.  She suggests employees and professionals of all kinds identify four basic factors at the end of each work day.

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1.  Recognize what went well for you.

Boogaard reminds workers that in the midst of our daily chaos and responsibilities, it’s easy to lose sight of the positive. This is why it’s crucial to take stock of even the minor wins you experienced which may have gone unnoticed at the time. According to Boogaard, “Not only will this give you that much-needed time to recognize your progress and achievements, but it will also put you in a much more positive and confident state of mind for the next workday”.

2.  Look for areas where you can improve.

Even the most incredibly productive and successful day at the office can be improved upon. Without being overly analytical of personal flaws, it is still a good idea to pinpoint any areas where you might have been able to improve your performance; and what better time to start than tomorrow?  Boogaard suggests, “Zone in on one – or even a few – areas where you’d like to step up your game the next day, and you’re sure to see constant progress in your productivity levels, work relationships, and overall outlook”.

3.  Plan your first task for the next day.

To avoid becoming overwhelmed, it’s most helpful to view your responsibilities not as one large mission, but rather as a list of basic tasks. “To get some much-needed clarity, think through your current workload and pick the one key thing that you want to work on when you get to the office in the morning”, says Boogaard. She continues, “That way, you can sit down at your desk with a clear head and a targeting plan in place”.

4.  Identify the best part of your day.

While it may be in our nature to focus more on the negative, it’s important to keep your thoughts positive even after a tumultuous day on the job. What’s more, a pessimistic mood can easily spill over into the next day. Boogaard recommends employees conclude by indentifying their favorite part of that particular day. She reiterates, “Whether you received a great compliment from a superior or got to indulge in a delicious piece of ice cream cake during a birthday celebration for a co-worker, thinking about something that makes you crack a smile will cap off your workday on a high note”.

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Further reading:   Five Pieces of Advice Prosperous People Don’t Ignore

 

Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Aiming for Success? Three Notions to Leave Behind

When it comes to achieving true success in any aspect of your life, one fact is consistently true: There is always a certain amount of sacrifice associated with the realization of great accomplishments. However, in certain cases, these sacrifices may simply be the act of letting go of preconceived notions or ideas to move forward with our aspirations.

The author of “Unmistakable: Why Only Is Better Than Best” and founder of “The Unmistakable Creative Podcast”, Srinivas Rao, has identified three concepts which are best disregarded when professional success is your ultimate goal.

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1. Let go of others’ definitions of success.

The real meaning of success can manifest itself in various ways for different people.  In regard to other people’s definitions of success, Rao states, “While this is one of the most difficult things to give up because it’s so deeply embedded in our cultural narrative, it’s also incredibly liberating and ultimately leads to the fullest expression of [who] you are, and what matters to you”. You are the only person who must live with the aftereffects of your decisions, therefore, living according to your own principals and value system should be of utmost importance. Rao reminds readers, “By understanding the essence of our goals – what it is that we believe our achievements will bring us – it’s easier to give up other people’s expectations”.

2. Release your fear of judgment.

Feeling as though you must always provide others with an explanation for your plans and actions may actually sap you of your confidence and motivation. It’s crucial to remember that one individual’s path toward success will never be completely identical to that of another.  Rao reiterates, “Once you give up your fear of judgment, your ability to work changes quite drastically. You become more present, productive, and start to gather creative momentum. You focus on the process, not the prize, and you start to see progress toward the life you want to live”.

3. Free yourself of past baggage.

While it’s true that our history helps shape who we are, it’s also easy to remain trapped in a cycle of negative thoughts regarding our past. There comes a time in our lives where we must be confident in the fact that we have learned from our mistakes; and any resentments or grudges we may hold toward people or past situations must also be left behind. Rao points out, “When you give all that up, you end up ditching a lot of baggage. You walk through the world with a sense of lightness, peace, and freedom that makes its way into everything else that you do”.

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The Takeaway

Without sacrificing or giving up antiquated ideas and pessimistic thought patterns, you are not allowing better and more promising opportunities to enter your life. It is up to you to identify your own idea of success and delineate the path and strategy that works best for you.

 

Fred Coon, CEO 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Have You Chosen the Wrong Job? How to Recover and get Back on Track

Do you go to work simply because that’s the expectation both from yourself and from your employer?  Are you perplexed at the thought that there are those who enjoy going to work each day?  While it’s true that only a small percentage of people truly love their jobs, and would happily do it even without any pay, about 30 percent of us manage to garner some satisfaction from our daily work.

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It’s Easier to Hate than Love

While it has been said that 70 percent of all people “hate” their jobs, this can be somewhat misleading.  More believable, is the statistic that approximately 20 percent of the workforce is actively disengaged from their job, and the remaining 50 percent are just muddling through, feeling unappreciated, unrewarded, and undervalued.

In a sense, “hating your job” alleviates a certain amount of pressure; it deceptively “relieves” you of the responsibility of having to perform at peak levels; you no longer feel as if you have to put forth a stellar effort because no one will care or notice.  Unfortunately, disengaged employees often feel as though they can “drop off the radar” and let someone with a higher profile handle the criticism for underperformance.

Why would you do that?

In the “olden days” we arose, worked our fields, possibly stopped at midday for a crust of bread and some water, and continued until dusk.  We returned to our rude huts, ate our one meal of the day, and went to bed.  The next day consisted of the same drill, and so on.  We survived/existed, and that was all.

Then, the Industrial Revolution came along.  Jobs became more productive; goods became more available and diverse; and, finally, we developed “leisure time”.  Some people became specialists; they became artisans such as blacksmiths, leather workers, and candle makers, and their value to society increased.

Workers began to see what it was like to experience success within their chosen line of work; they had increased expectations and took on apprentices, and their learners had increased expectations, too.  Expansion and success created the business/shopkeeper class, but largely, most people persisted in “survival mode” for many centuries.

Cometh the Dawn

People have always had ambition toward their jobs, hoping to improve their lot and sometimes expending extraordinary effort to accomplish just that.  Yet, up until the last two decades, it was never the responsibility of the employer to generate job satisfaction for the employees.

In fact, the truth is, it technically still isn’t.  In order to hang onto significant talent some companies are making an effort (for some employees) to make their job rewarding.  In so doing, they manage to retain them with the company for as long as possible.  That’s simply good business.  People who have made an investment in themselves, to cultivate talents which make them valuable, should be valued and protected.

Even throughout the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, the majority of workers weren’t viewed distinctly enough to warrant special attention.  There were plenty of others that could replace them.

Nowadays, specialized skills, such as those found in IT, are vital to most every company.  The more common skills, such as sales staff, labor, general accountancy, customer service, and so on are more easily replaced and so, often, no special effort is made to create job satisfaction.  This fact alone, may likely explain why 70 percent of us aren’t thrilled with our jobs.

Signs for Change

You’ve been at the job for 6, 12, or 18 months, and the honeymoon phase as come to an end.  Many of the things you were promised have never materialized; some aspects may have been under-delivered; the company may have “changed direction” and the situation may even have deteriorated to some extent.  For example:

  • You’re bored and underutilized.  Your skills are growing rusty from lack of use.
  • You dread going to work each morning because you know that your daily efforts will result in continued futility.
  • Your overtime has become a daily affair, spiraling out of control and significantly affecting your non-work life; expectations for a single worker are too high/unrealistic.
  • The office culture is in direct opposition to you.  It seems plodding and slow, when your tendency is to be on the go all the time (or vice-versa).
  • You exchange pleasantries with fellow workers, but there is not a single one that you would call a “friend” (or even an esteemed acquaintance).
  • You can’t identify the path to move ahead; you can’t find a way to earn a promotion and get away from an unfulfilling daily grind.
  • The company is on shaky financial ground, and maybe it’s time for you to move on before you get drawn down with them.
  • You’re experiencing apathy, or skyrocketing anxiety; you’re gaining or losing weight, and/or suffering from stress-related exhaustion.
  • Your direct manager appears outwardly stressed, unhappy, and/or in a continuous state of panic. His/her own disorganization increases as the chances that you (or your coworkers) will receive the blame for mistakes when superiors begin to seek answers.

Leave or Stay?

Even if you have only been at your job for a month or two, if you realize that the company is a bad fit, getting back into the job market might leave you with some explaining to do about this short-lived position. However, it can be done, and, likewise, it should not be the sole reason for staying.

On the other hand, being honest with your current employer and saying “This isn’t working out the way I expected” could actually generate some positive changes.  If they like your work, they could very well adjust aspects of your job that would make it completely acceptable to you.  You might actually find yourself with a lifelong career, simply because you spoke up.

Regardless of your choice, you will still need to step up your networking; since ending a months-long search when you obtained this job could lead to complacency about your contact list.  If asked point-blank about changing jobs so soon, rather focus on the fact that, while the job wasn’t an ideal fit, you gained valuable skills and experience which will prove beneficial in future positions.

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Making the Move

Do you need to enroll in four more years of college?  Almost certainly not; most times you merely need to move to a different environment, a different company with similar duties, where you enjoy a better fit.

Even if you are targeting a complete career change, there are plenty of transferable skills.  However, don’t just quit right away.  Plan your job search so that you will not go without a salary which could force you into another less-than-ideal employment situation.

The Takeaway

Before you go, make sure you leave something behind, a legacy if you will, that leaves the company just little bit better off than you found it.  It might be a new way of managing the office sports pool, or a complete redesign of the inventory system for the whole company.  Leave something good behind.  That’s the sort of thing that will follow you, and cast you in a positive light long after you’ve moved on.

 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

The Novice’s Guide to Life Planning: How to Preserve Your Children’s Future

No matter what age you become a parent, you may not have given much thought to life planning before having children. However, when kids enter the picture, preserving their future becomes a major priority. Still, most parents aren’t all that knowledgeable on what life planning entails; the important legal documents to get in order, and the other steps they can take to preserve their children’s future. If this sounds like you, this novice’s guide to life planning outlines exactly what you need to know to get started.

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Life and Disability Insurance

Life and disability insurance are never more crucial than when you become a parent. Raising children is costly, and should you become disabled and unable to work, disability insurance is a lifeline that makes it possible to continue providing for your family’s needs. Additionally, a good life insurance policy is a safeguard that provides a financial means to ensure that your children are cared for, should an accident or illness take your life before they reach adulthood.

Advance Directives

Few things are more devastating than having to make the decision of whether to continue life support for a parent or other family member who has suffered serious injury. To spare your children from having to make such difficult decisions, parents should prepare advance directives that specify precisely what heroic measures you wish to receive under varying medical conditions, such as a persistent vegetative state or irreversible coma. Specifically, advance directives serve to communicate your wishes regarding treatment in circumstances in which you’re no longer able to communicate.

Last Will and Testament

Advance directives are also called living wills, not to be confused with a traditional will, or Last Will and Testament. Your “last will” outlines who will inherit your property and other assets after your death, can designate guardians for minor children, and designate financial guardians to oversee financial assets to be used in providing care for your children until they reach a specified age. Both living wills and last wills are essential legal planning documents for parents.

Deeds and Trusts

Deeds and trusts are other legal and financial measures designed to streamline the transfer of property and other assets from you to your children, following your death. Inheritance outlined in wills must almost always go through a process known as probate, a time-consuming and expensive legal process that can hold up the transfer of assets following a person’s death. As such, more families are opting for tools like Quitclaim deeds and irrevocable living trusts to facilitate the transfer of property and the oversight of finances for the benefit of their children, both in the case of inheritance and other instances, as well.

Retirement and College Savings

Personal finance experts suggest having multiple savings accounts for your various financial goals, such as separate accounts for retirement savings and savings for your children’s college education. There are a variety of tools and account types that can be used for either purpose, ranging from 529 College Savings Plans for college savings to the traditional 401(k) and IRA for retirement savings.

While there’s no one right answer for every family, you should take the time to evaluate your finances, weigh your options, and set up a savings plan that builds a nest egg for retirement and start saving for your children’s college education early.

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In Summary

It’s far too easy to neglect saving when faced with the day-to-day costs of raising children, so make savings a priority to build a strong financial foundation. Likewise, young parents may not consider the potentially devastating consequences of unforeseen illness or a tragic accident and the financial ramifications these events could have on their children’s futures. Even if you’re a life planning novice, implementing these essential steps will give you peace of mind in knowing that you’ve protected your children’s future to the best of your ability.

by,  Jackie Waters ,    Fred Coon, CEO

 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200