By Chris Griffiths and Caragh Medlicott

When you were a child, what did you imagine the future would look like? Perhaps you imagined flying cars, self-tying shoes and instant pizza a la Back to the Future.

Certainly, you might have had vague speculations about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the ways in which machines might assist us in day-to-day life. Still, it’s unlikely you could have anticipated the way AI would actually enter the world of work, and transform the jobs of the future in the process.

While the AI most of us are currently familiar with doesn’t exist in physical form, that doesn’t mean it’s not having a serious impact. In fact, at present, 35% of businesses are already using AI, and 92.1% of businesses have already seen measurable results as a consequence. To put this another way, AI is already here and disrupting the world of work in ways we couldn’t have predicted just a few short years ago.

The big question, of course, is what does that mean for you? While it can be easy to concede to fears of job eradication, the truth is that AI will do more to transform many existing roles than eliminate them for good. You only need to look to history for reassurance of this. Whether it be the Industrial Revolution or the advent of the internet, seismic technological shifts have warranted seismic changes to our ways of working. What they don’t do, however, is make humans redundant altogether.

As with so many things in life, to make the most of these technological advancements we need to find a middle road – neither relying entirely on AI for everything nor rejecting it outright out of misguided stubbornness. In other words, we need to find a way to build a hybrid relationship between humans and AI. When we think about the future solely in terms of man versus machine, we miss the great opportunity for work that can be done in tandem with AI.

Naturally, to best understand how humans and AI can work together we also need to understand the strengths of each. One of the biggest benefits of machine learning is its speed and computing power. Tools such as ChatGPT can process huge amounts of information and filter it into something more useful. Other AI tools can take over mundane, repetitive tasks and unpick complex algorithmic issues in order to leave more time for more pressing strategic work that requires human attention.

Given there’s not a human on earth who can store anywhere near the amount of data as an AI tool can, or work so efficiently across a number of topics, you might wonder what chance humans have of competition. Yet, the one thing AI lacks is real experience in the world. It has no autonomy or opinion – and so cannot truly grasp the context and nuance we all inherently have just by the grace of having a subjective experience.

The other thing AI lacks, of course, is creativity. That isn’t to say it can’t help with the generation of creative ideas but what AI cannot do is express a real preference between ideas, or use the experiences of “being alive” to draw inspiration from the many thousands of thoughts, experiences and interactions we have every single day. This is actually a great example of how AI and humans can work in a complementary, hybrid manner.

Take the example of a graphic designer. AI is able to produce a wide and varied range of mock up designs at a moment’s notice – but in order to do this, the AI still needs a creative prompt from the designer. Equally, the experience of the designer is needed to then narrow down the designs and select which elements they want to take forward and incorporate into their own personal design.

Of course, this process doesn’t apply only to creative roles or industries, but jobs of all kinds. In a sentence, hybrid human-AI work means less time wasted on repetitive and time-intensive tasks, and more time for creative thinking and experimentation.

While you would be forgiven for worrying that AI will bring uniformity to the world of work and effectively kill opportunities for creative variety, harnessed in the right way there is good reason to believe that it will actually open up a whole new world of innovation! To reach this point, we must learn to open our minds and embrace our own, inherent human creativity.

About the author

Chris Griffiths and Caragh Medlicott are the authors of The Focus Fix: Finding clarity, creativity and resilience in an overwhelming world (out 3 July 2024, Kogan Page)