Artificial intelligence (AI) discussions have taken over many of the spaces that I frequent. Everyone is wondering how they will be able to keep their jobs if AI threatens to replace them. I haven’t had the same concern, and I’ll explain why in a moment (I’ll also tell you how to be AI-proof later in this post). To be clear, AI can absolutely replace MANY different professions, and I understand that some people are afraid that they may be next to be impacted. But I’m here to tell you that most people can not only survive the AI takeover, but THRIVE, earning more money and getting all of the things they’ve ever wanted: flexibility, work/life balance, and meaningful, interesting work.
I’m not concerned about AI overtaking a huge portion of the job market because I’m old enough to have seen more than one tech revolution. With every revolution, there are jobs eliminated . . . and jobs created. I remember when I had a typewriter in my home, and how the computer replaced it. But, as many of you know, computers – like typewriters – can malfunction, and thus need repair. Guess what? When tech fails, someone has to fix it! And even if you aren’t the repairer of said technology, you can be of service in a different way (remember that whole post on selling shovels? Yeah, I was sounding the alarm WAY before most people knew about ChatGPT). Certain skills are transferable (typing on the keyboard of a typewriter prepared me for typing on a computer keyboard: they’re the same!) and other skills are a slight pivot into a different modality (if you use creativity as a graphic designer, you can use creativity in other industries [once you learn the basics of that industry]).
Much like the automobile replaced the horse and carriage (I’m not old enough to remember that, but I know it happened!), and airplanes became the default method for long-distance travel (as opposed to trains and ships), newer technology will replace slower, less efficient existing technology. What’s interesting is that, while change will happen quickly, that doesn’t mean that the newer tech will overtake ALL existing processes. Despite there being many different electronic options for sending documents from one person to another, the US Postal Service still exists. The courts still require certain documents to be “served” via postal mail or hand delivery. In spite of the glorious technology of scanners and PDF formatting, there are still companies that only accept fax documents, and these companies PAY for additional phone services that allows for sending and receiving faxes. As recently as 2022, I knew someone living in Germany (a country known for being an industrial titan) that could only get documents from one doctor to another through faxing, and he still had to hand-carry prescriptions to the pharmacist. In short, new tech does not quickly and completely replace all existing old tech: it’s a process, and it could be years or decades before the transition is “complete”. In the case of the horse and buggy, there is still a subset of people in the United States – the Amish – that keep the carriage makers in business.
Aside from the points mentioned earlier, there are reasons why being AI-proof is worthwhile. Here is a quick guide to how to survive and thrive through the AI revolution, no matter what profession you’re in:
- Learn to specialize in the things that AI does poorly. Anyone that has enjoyed using free or low-cost AI image generators has griped about the hands of the images. A great potential niche for digital artists is to specialize in fixing the error in these photos. For copywriters, AI does a great job of quickly coming up with text that matches the prompts entered, but, unless the text is edited for a more natural voice, these will fail the AI language checkers and fall victim to being “pushed down” in the algorithm. Editors that specialize in adding human (natural) voice touches are needed. Go into the many YouTube and Discord groups discussing the shortcomings of AI, and find something that you can offer to offset them.
- Develop soft skills. This is going to be challenging for people who have relied heavily on technical expertise. While AI can automate those technical tasks and free up considerable time, it cannot replace uniquely human skills such as critical thinking, creativity, emotional intelligence, and problem-solving. Yes, not even ChatGPT 4 has mastered critical thinking and problem solving for the REAL WORLD (though, by all accounts, it’s getting closer). Developing your soft skills can set you apart from the machines that will undoubtedly eliminate most of the technical tasks you currently execute. In addition, soft skills can open up different revenue streams for people that may be in fields that are positioned to be completely eliminated by AI.
- Diversify and expand your skills. This relates to the last point, because diversifying your skill set is critical for anyone that wants to weather the changes that can happen in any industry at any time. Consider expanding your skills to different areas within your industry and to different industries altogether. This opens up so many more opportunities and keeps you from being devastated by the impact of automation in your current area of expertise.
- Embrace AI and technology in general. If you can’t beat them, join them. Rather than viewing AI as a threat, learn to embrace it and find a way to use it to your advantage. Now is a perfect time for this, since many AI tools are free to use and can be explored in whatever pockets of time you have. Try using AI to help you automate repetitive tasks, then watch even more of your time open up. You can also experiment with using AI’s decision making capabilities, and it can help you plan out your work or your life, thus freeing up your mental resources to be applied to some other project or passion (or passion project, if you’re anything like me).
- Strengthen your network, or form a brand new one. Networking is critical in practically any profession, but especially in industries that are undergoing major changes due to automation. Stay connected with colleagues (current and previous), attend industry events, and participate in online forums to stay up to date on the latest developments and opportunities. If this is something you’ve never done before, prioritize doing it now.
There are many more specific things you can do, and I’ll be sharing more about that in upcoming articles. But this introduction to the idea will hopefully get the wheels turning and inspire you all to take steps to AI-proof your life. Do you have any strategies for surviving and thriving through AI’s takeover? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!