How Artificial Intelligence Will Shape the Workforce in the Next Decade

Answer by Michael Armistead, Co-Founder & CEO, Respond Software, on Quora.


I’m happy you asked this question because it is certainly on many peoples’ minds. Let me start by addressing the question with respect to the cybersecurity industry and then give a broader perspective.

Based on a recent study by (ISC)2, over the next five years, the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs will rise to 1.8 million, a 20 percent increase from 2015 estimates. Yikes. And that only accounts for positions budgeted by companies. In reality, the number could be 4, 5, maybe as high as 10 times that amount! Why? There are simply not enough people for the security roles that are needed, and no way to train sufficient numbers to keep up with the ever-growing dangers. The cybersecurity industry is constrained by its labor shortage.

So any discussion about robots and artificial intelligence taking away jobs in cybersecurity just isn’t so. AI systems can review incidents faster and more consistently; they can detect anomalies across data sets that no person would catch, and they can work 24/7/365 without fatigue, ennui or bias. Moreover, and maybe most important to answering this question, AI can free human analysts from the trenches of enterprise security, allowing them to focus on the kind of higher-order decision making of which computers aren’t capable. In other words, I expect AI to handle the high-volume, low signal-type work and effectively give the security professional a better job. (That’s exactly the kind of solution we’re building at Respond Software.) Instead of staring at a monitor trying to keep up with the alerts generated by the plethora of security systems, the humans get to do real detective and/or proactive security work. Way cooler, way more interesting, and way more valuable to their companies.

On a broader scale, generations upon generations have faced industrial and technological improvements that have affected jobs. In most cases, the jobs lost have been replaced and extended with new industries. Think horse-and-buggy and railroads, bookkeepers and calculators and yellow pages/phone book and the internet. Granted, not every job benefits from technological advances. There’s a good argument that we lost a lot of farmers with advances in farming technology. But what we lost in farming, we’ve gained in individual productivity.

While I expect we’ll see a lot of advances over the next 5 to 10 years, I don’t think we’ll see tectonic shifts in the job landscape. If we apply AI correctly, we can use it to handle jobs that are ill-suited for people. Computers are good at tirelessly doing the same thing repeatedly and consistently. Humans are good at complex pattern matching, nuance and curiosity. It’s more about designing jobs that fit those characteristics to match the person or AI that fills it.