What Is the Fourth Industrial Revolution & Should You Worry?

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What is the fourth industrial revolution? How is this revolution different than the previous three?

While previous moves from manual labor to automation left many blue-collar workers jobless, this latest disruption threatens to displace white-collar workers for the first time. Career experts say now is the time to think about your place in this Industrial Revolution.

Here’s a look at the AI revolution and how it may affect jobs in the future.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), some argue that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is upon us—and it’s markedly different from revolutions past. Previous disruptive technologies (the steam engine in the 1700s, electricity and mass production in the 1800s, and information technology and automation in the 1900s) left many blue-collar workers jobless. But this time around, the new tech threatens to displace a whole other sector: white-collar workers.

Why Some Experts Are Worried

Some experts predict that AI will have an impact on around 300 million jobs, and those most at risk are the ones requiring more education and higher salaries. That’s because the latest versions of AI enable junior employees to supplement their knowledge and catch up to more experienced, higher-paid employees. It’s estimated that globally, 250,000 workers in tech have already lost their jobs since the beginning of 2022.

AI Could Put Freelance Writers Out of Work

Some businesses that have hired writers on freelance marketplace platforms say that AI chatbots produce more content than humans, better, faster, and for free. Those who believe that AI-generated content will, at the very least, satisfy easily placated audiences will likely turn away from freelancers.

AI Could Kill Freelance Marketplace Platforms 

Other businesses using freelance marketplace platforms are unhappy that freelance writers are using AI chatbots to do some or all of their work and, as a result, they’re displeased with marketplace platforms, like Fiverr. Businesses seeking authentic content are increasingly irritated that freelancers are bombarding them with project proposals nearly identical to ones generated by chatbots, and a growing number of them are asking platforms for their money back. They’re also initiating transactional disputes that could hurt platforms’ bottom line and put their future in jeopardy.

…and Why Others Aren’t

On the other hand, some experts are more optimistic, saying that we’re still a long way from mass-replacing humans with robots. They argue that companies tend to be slow to adopt new “smart” equipment, preferring to stick to old but reliable machines and cheap outsourced labor. History has also shown that disruptive technologies lead to job loss in the short term but create more jobs and fuel economic growth in the long term

How to Stay Relevant When Robots (May) Rule

If you’re worried about your job security, experts have a number of tips to help you future-proof your career. The main takeaway is to stay flexible and be a lifelong learner. You can do this by:

  • Being aware of trends in your field. Read reports written by industry leaders, follow reputable blogs and publications in your industry, and attend conferences to stay on top of industry developments.
  • Expanding or updating your skill set. There are ways to upskill or second-skill outside of traditional schooling. You can enroll in an online course (from providers like Coursera and edX or top universities like MIT, Harvard, and Yale), sign up for an internship, take on additional work from another department (as long as it doesn’t get in the way of your job), or find a mentor.  

If you’re taking an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach, consider AI jobs in quickly growing fields. Aside from prompt engineers (“prompt engineers”—workers who provide AI tools with phrases that enable the technology to generate accurate, relevant responses), another emerging profession is that of machine learning engineers—a hybrid of data scientists and software engineers—who design and develop AI and improve it after analyzing data. 

Those with a non-coding background can look into jobs that will become increasingly relevant as businesses pivot to using new technologies: process re-engineering, which involves making changes to the way businesses run; data ethics, which ensures the appropriate use of data, from collection to insights; and business case development, which involves analyzing project costs, benefits, and risks to help companies make informed decisions.

According to career experts, perhaps the most important thing you can do in the age of robots is not to try to compete with machines but to lean into what makes you unique and irreplaceable: your humanity.

What Is the Fourth Industrial Revolution & Should You Worry?

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Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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