A.I. & The Apocalypse: The End of the Data Workforce?


You’ve heard from the likes of Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking; Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is coming. Well, it’s already here. It is terrifying some scientists, entrepreneurs, and business leaders, but exciting many others. Where you stand seems to be based on a mixture of exposure to the applications making use of A.I., your business acumen, and your ability to foresee the future of humanity. Whether or not you view the movement toward A.I. based business models as a positive or negative, you have to know that it is happening.

What does this mean for those of us working in an industry that not only creates these A.I. models, but also does the work that many of them are aiming to automate?

In 15 years will you still have a job? Will you still need a job?

In all honesty, I can’t tell you, but I can provide you with an insight into how the Data workforce may be affected at every level, from entry-level to Chief Technology Officer (CTO). 

First comes the bad news: If you work in the data industry as a developer, either in UX or UI, then some of what you currently do will be automated or built by AI in the future. There will be a big red button pushed by a manager that will kick of a process to deliver a product to a client. For tailored services, there will be parameters set first followed by the push of the button. Even this could eventually be automated.

For an industry that is growing, this might not be a bad turn of events. With modern education focussing heavily on technology and ensuring that younger generations are more than adept at creating and building apps and programs, a flooded workforce would not be able to support such an influx of entry-level staff. Therefore, the up-and-comers would have to get creative, build an app or process, and be able to push their own big red button. For someone like myself who is in favour of socialist capitalism, a progression towards small businesses being contracted by the larger corporations for specific services is a welcome one. According to Isabel Gottleib at Bloomberg, there has never been a better time to be starting a technology company, as venture capitalist-backed start-ups have increased 44% (USA). Though this figure may not be as high in Europe, there was a boom in US companies investing in European technology start-ups beginning in 2016 (Arjun Kharpal, CNBC, Nov 2016); although the industry moves quickly and is always changing shape, the effects of this boom are still being felt, such as having 85,000 more jobs in the tech industry between 2013 and 2015 in the UK alone (https://technation.techcityuk.com/growth-tech/).

For CTOs, the future does not seem so complicated. They will be the individuals choosing the apps and features their respective companies use, and even pushing those buttons. Upper management is not a section of business that will be going anywhere anytime soon.

As for whether or not you’ll need a job in 15 years is as much up to personal circumstance as it is up to the industry. Learning new code languages or other transferable skills is always a good way to make sure you’re employable. If 99% of all current jobs are automated by 2033, then we must trust that our governments have a plan to support our income.

So it’s not all bad news. As long as there are start-up companies making waves, there will be jobs for developers, jobs for managers, jobs for analysts, and jobs for those creative enough to have that epiphany to make a specific task more efficiently achievable for others to utilise. The future of tech is in our hands, we must decide what to do with it.

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BI and Analytics Consultant

Nick Smith

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