Computer engineers make artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence: are our jobs now threatened or not?

The debate about artificial intelligence, Industry 4.0 and automation quickly becomes emotional. Because it is more and more about something existential: work. Or even more about the job, which threatens to disappear in many professions. But what is the current work situation really like?


The technological progress of the 21st century and with it the fourth industrial revolution can no longer be stopped. In almost every industry, processes are becoming more and more automated and work processes are being made more efficient. In addition to all of this, there is the strong networking that breaks up entire corporate structures internally and externally, across departments and industries. The market is changing, and so is the industry. This is why many people rightly ask themselves: is my workplace future-proof at all? In particular, developments in the field of artificial intelligence are a headache for workers from the social middle of society. Jobs that computers and algorithms can do better and more cost-effectively in the long term - there are. But which ones are included and who is affected?

From the perspective of a progressive philosopher

In order to be aware of the real consequences of the loss of jobs, it may be useful to look at the assessment of someone who initially appears alien in the debate. Richard David Precht, author of the bestseller “Who am I - and if so, how many?”, A popular modern philosopher and writer, expressed his thoughts on future education, work, nutrition and other topics from a philosophical perspective at various events and on television . In doing so, he often hits the nail on the head. In one of his most recent speeches, for example, he illustrated the difference between the first three industrial revolutions and the current upheaval towards Industry 4.0.

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In the 19th and 20th centuries, the success of the industrial revolutions was based on the easy procurement of raw materials and ultimately the outsourcing of jobs. In the new industrial revolution, however, many nations and thus billions of people are competing with one another. This time, the focus is not on raw materials and labor, but on the automation of the work. It is therefore very likely that unemployment - not only in Germany - will rise enormously for at least a few years or decades because many professions are being replaced by machines and computers.

Which jobs are particularly affected?

Professions that have to do with the transport of people or objects such as delivery and bus drivers are just as affected as insurance and banking professionals. For some, it is the autonomous vehicles that will be on the roads for the next few years. In legal administrative professions or in insurance groups and banks, algorithms will sooner or later take on many tasks that do not require individual intervention. Many physical occupations in the industrial halls also belong to the endangered species, although progress is not only celebrated there. We had already reported that Mercedes had exchanged robots for human workers again, as machines were not yet able to take on the necessary flexible work.

Automation and the use of AI will certainly take years in some industries, but one thing is certain: the jobs that are then dropped will not come back. The people who will then be left without work, however, must still be able to participate in society. Not every office assistant and not every truck driver can then be retrained to become a data analyst, so political solutions are needed today. Current developments call for a revolution in both education and training, but it is still a long time coming. In addition to some activists, more and more politicians and corporate bosses are now speaking out in favor of an unconditional basic income. We spoke to Philip Kovce, a founder of the citizens' initiative Unconditional Basic Income, about the necessity and how it works.

New professions are not a dream of the future

While numerous traditional professions are still being practiced, more and more IT activities are emerging in parallel. Whether cloud architects, data scientists or data artists - future jobs will increasingly revolve around the analysis, processing and use of digital data. Companies have been responding to these developments for years. Just a few days ago z. B. reported the FAZ that the online fashion giant Zalando will lay off up to 250 employees in its marketing departments. The reason given by the board member Rubin Ritter is the restructuring to data-based marketing. Instead, IT specialists are increasingly being sought at Zalando.

The topic of artificial intelligence or machine learning will certainly play an increasingly important role in the future. Companies like Google are now working on software that is to be integrated into everyday business processes and thus primarily relieves employees. However, if you think a little ahead, this software will of course evolve over time, because that is exactly what artificial intelligence stands for: independent learning.

Don't panic

Before you run to the boss and ask how long you have left, give a little all-clear: Germany is known for its rule of law and bureaucratic sluggishness. It is therefore relatively unlikely that the revolution in our country will put millions of people on the streets within a very short period of time. Nevertheless, the topic must be taken seriously and politicians in particular must create good conditions in the next few years so that people who will actually lose their jobs can be reintegrated into the labor market - in whatever way. In addition, the current education system must be rethought and redesigned in order to prepare future generations for a completely new job market.

We have highlighted what you as an engineer can do yourself in various articles. Among other things, we asked economist Jutta Rump what engineers should learn as long as nobody knows where they are going. We checked with the major engineering and industry associations what the workplace of engineers could look like in 2030 and we presented some professions with a future at the interface between engineering and IT. In addition, in a large-scale study, VDI Verlag asked personnel decision-makers how they actually want to find the IT engineer they are all currently looking for.

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