AI revolution: Understanding the impacts on jobs
Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly transforming the way Australians work, with businesses increasingly using technology for everything from data analysis to content generation. In fact, the AI revolution seems to be everywhere – affecting jobs from office roles, to nurses, teachers, and blue-collar workers. But what exactly does AI refer to?
The term ‘artificial intelligence’ broadly encompasses any application of technology that performs tasks which humans typically do, showing that it is capable of imitating human behaviour. Here’s how that applies to the world of work, and what it might mean for your job.
Impacts of AI
AI is already shaking up workplaces across Australia by automating routine tasks – such as data entry, research, reports, payments and invoicing, responding to basic customer queries, as well as drafting and reviewing documents.
This can help boost productivity by enabling workers to focus their time and efforts on more creative, higher-value tasks that require human intervention. Businesses can leverage AI to better target their marketing efforts, accurately calculate costs, and develop more efficient supply chains.
However, it also means that AI is likely to eradicate some jobs, with many white-collar roles particularly vulnerable. The impact is being felt in areas such as accounting, analysis, robo-advice, market research, and content writing. But it’s important to remember that AI can’t replace human cognition, judgement, and higher order thinking, making it harder for machines to replicate and replace high-skill jobs.
AI technologies will also create new job opportunities for data scientists, software engineers and developers, research scientists, and machine learning engineers – in response to a growing need to develop, maintain, and operate AI systems.
AI trends in the Australian workplace
Millions of Aussie workers are already using AI
Australians are already harnessing the power of AI, with almost one in five workers – or 2.3 million people – using tools such as ChatGPT to help them do their job. Young Aussies are the most likely to utilise AI, at 23% of Gen Z and 19% of Gen Y, compared with 8% of boomers.
Australia is losing fewer jobs to automation than other countries
Compared with many other OECD countries (that is countries that participate in the organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), Australia faces a lower risk of losing jobs to automation – around 36% vs 46%. This is largely due to our higher levels of education, robust export services sector, and high rates of urbanisation.
AI has the potential to boost our economy
Generative AI represents a significant economic opportunity for Australia, with the potential to add up to $115 billion to the economy by 2030. This is the result of improving businesses through automation of repetitive tasks, leading to higher productivity and work quality.
Australia’s largest states are leading the charge
Labour markets in NSW and Victoria are being reshaped by AI, with these two states accounting for a whopping 76% of new AI jobs – while Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia lag behind.
Workers are concerned about the future of AI
The Australian workforce is preparing for a very different future, as more than one-third of workers predict that machines, AI, or robots could perform their roles at some point – with the vast majority expecting this to happen within the next 10 years.
How can AI impact primary industries in Australia
Recent years have seen the primary sector ramp up investment in AI – starting a tech revolution in agriculture. For producers, AI and robotics can play a valuable role in mitigating the impacts of climate change, by collecting and analysing large amounts of data to help farmers assess the health of crops, track nutrient levels, and identify where they can save water.
What does this mean for a few key professions? We asked Sophie Fennelly, to demystify the impact of AI in Australia by 2024:
The Office Ensemble:
Forget your run-of-the-mill automation. Imagine AI tools like chatbots handling client queries, leaving our Aussie execs, to focus on the next big deal.
The Nursing Vanguard:
Picture wearable devices that can predict a patient's potential health issue before it becomes critical. Nurses won’t be running around reacting; they’ll be strategising and pre-emptively acting. And while AI might give a hand with the data, nothing replaces the compassionate touch and reassuring words of a seasoned nurse.
The Classroom Catalysts:
Teaching in 2024 isn't just about blackboards or even smartboards. It's about AI-driven platforms that can for example, tell Mrs. Thompson that young Billy struggles with algebra but could be the next Picasso. Teachers, armed with AI insights, can foster students' individual talents rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.
Farming, the AI Way:
Consider a winery in Barossa Valley using AI to predict the exact moment grapes reach their peak ripeness, ensuring the finest Shiraz vintage yet. Or drones in Queensland orchards detecting the early signs of crop disease. The traditional farmer morphs into an AI-powered agronomist.
With heat stress becoming an increasing problem for livestock, AI technologies can perform health and productivity measurements to monitor live animals in the farm and in transport. And to combat bushfire risk, drones are now able to survey thousands of hectares of land at a plant level and produce maps detailing smoke contamination of crops.
The manufacturing industry is one of the most affected by AI, as automation technologies such as robotics and machine learning can now handle around 30% of tasks in a plant – freeing up worker time for strategic activities.
AI is also being used to predict equipment failures and maintenance needs, and for quality control in detecting product defects or anomalies. In fact, the productivity gains from AI could contribute as much as $5 billion annually to Australia’s manufacturing sector.
How AI can be utilised for your benefit
While the impacts of technology are still being felt across Australian workplaces, there are clear benefits of AI for both businesses and workers:
- Increase productivity: AI takes over time-consuming and repetitive manual tasks, letting workers focus their efforts on higher-value jobs that only humans can do.
- Process and analyse data: AI creates predictive models and algorithms to understand the potential outcomes of different scenarios and find the right solution every time.
- Make better decisions: With access to accurate data about your customers and your business, AI delivers rich insights that help you make more informed decisions.
- Maximise speed and efficiency: Thanks to automation, AI can handle tasks faster and more efficiently than humans can match – leading to time savings of 56%.
- Enhance customer service: AI leverages data about individual behaviours and preferences to create highly personalised experiences and services.
- Minimise errors: Adding AI technologies ensures accuracy in processes, eliminating the possibility of human error and improving overall quality.
- Improve monitoring: AI processes massive amounts of data in real-time, allowing business to monitor their performance and respond to issues as they arise.
- Drive innovation: As businesses and workers become more confident working with AI, they’re able to use the latest technological advancements to experiment and innovate.
10 tips and tricks when using AI
- Provide clear instructions that are as specific as possible, adding context to guide the model’s response.
- Factcheck any content that is created by AI tools, whether writing or code.
- Penalise inappropriate responses to give the AI model feedback and help it learn over time.
- Review data provided by analytics software for biases and inaccuracies.
- Properly secure AI tools that have access to sensitive data, for protection against hackers.
- Ensure algorithms are trained, tested, and validated to minimise the risk of errors or bias.
- Monitor input data to ensure that it is accurate, relevant and from a reliable source.
- Be cautious using third-party risk assessment tools as they are known for generating false positives.
- Deploy human testing on software, instead of relying on automated tests or checks.
- Don’t set and forget machine learning models – continue monitoring their performance.
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24 Sep 2023