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AI And The Changing Nature of Work

This week was a hallmark for this editor. With a jab of a needle, I entered the ranks of the inoculated, and in the process realized how much the world (and especially the way that we earn a living) has changed.

Many companies are grappling with what to do post-pandemic, even as COVID-19 continues to persist worryingly in the background. Do they bring workers back to the office? Will they come if called? Does it make sense to go fully virtual? To embrace a hybrid model?

Workers too are facing uncertainty, not all of it bad. The job market is tightening, and companies are struggling to find workers. Work from home (or more properly, work from anywhere) has proven to be wildly popular, and in many cases, people are willing to walk away from tens of thousands of dollars a year for the privilege. This has forced companies, already struggling with getting new employees, to reconsider how exactly they should interact with their workforce to a degree unthinkable before the pandemic. Much of this comes down to the fact that AI (at a very broad level) is reducing or even eliminating the need to be in office for most people. Indeed, one of the primary use-cases of AI is to be both vigilant when problems or opportunities arise and to be flexible enough to know who to call when something does go wrong.

On a related front, AIs are increasingly taking over in areas that may be seen as fundamentally creative. Already, generated personalities are becoming brand influencers as GANs become increasingly sophisticated. Similarly, Google's GPT-3 engine is beginning to replace writers in generating things like product descriptions and press releases. Additionally, robot writers are making their way into generating working code based upon the intent of the "programmer", a key pillar of the no-code movement.

Finally, robotic process automation is hacking away at the domain of integration, tying together disparate systems with comparatively minimal involvement of human programmers. Given that integration represents upwards of 40% of all software being written at any given time, the impact that this has upon software engineers is beginning to be felt throughout the sector. That this frees up people to deal with less-repetitive tasks is an oft-stated truism, but this also has the impact of changing people from being busy 24-7 to be available only in a more consultative capacity, with even highly skilled people finding those skills utilized in a more opportunistic fashion. 

The nature of work is changing, and those people who are at the forefront of that change are now involved in an elaborate dance to determine a new parity, one where skillsets and the continuing need to acquire them are adequately compensated, and where automation is tempered with the impacts that automation has on the rest of society.

These issues and more are covered in this week's digest. This is why we run Data Science Central, and why we are expanding its focus to consider the width and breadth of digital transformation in our society. Data Science Central is your community. It is a chance to learn from other practitioners, and a chance to communicate what you know to the data science community overall. I encourage you to submit original articles and to make your name known to the people that are going to be hiring in the coming year. As always let us know what you think.

In media res,
Kurt Cagle
Community Editor,
Data Science Central


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