Four jobs AI won’t destroy

Given the trajectory artificial intelligence is on, machines will soon do everything that people do today. In a world of increasingly powerful technology, which in aggregate will make the world a better, richer place but at the micro, personal level, will make a lot of skills less relevant and less valuable, it’s smart to try and figure out how to “beat the bot”. These are four areas and skills that are “AI proof” – well, at least for a little while…

Malcolm Frank, EVP, Strategy & Marketing at Cognizant; Paul Roehrig, VP, Strategy & Marketing for Cognizant Digital Business; Ben Pring, VP, Director of Cognizant’s Centre for the Future of Work

Data Scientist – according to the job website, CareerCast, data science is the toughest job to fill in 2017. That’s because all sort of businesses – banks, airlines, manufacturers, not just technology companies – know they need to run their operations based on data (rather than guesswork) and are scrambling to hire the talent. You don’t have to be a math savant to be a data scientist – the biggest trend this year is the growth of the “citizen” data scientist. Get started by working with software from Tableau or Qlik.

Cyber security – Aaron Levie, CEO of cloud storage vendor Box, recently said, “If you want a job for the next few years, work in technology. If you want a job for life, work in cyber security”. The battle between “black hats” and “white hats” gets more and more intense each year as modern-day Willie Suttons go where the money is, i.e. hacking code. Keeping 16-year-old Ukrainians and state sponsored operatives at bay is a task without end. You might not be able to talk about your work but your bank balance will know.

Designer – Apple’s design sensibility – beautiful objects, beautiful online and retail experiences – has changed the face of modern business. Now every company and organisation knows it needs to upgrade its customer facing game to stay in tune with changing demographics and changing times. Design – once an afterthought post engineers and accountants doing the real work – is front and centre in every critical decision businesses are making; consequently, design firms are being acquired right, left, and centre by big consulting and technology firms. If you don’t have a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) background, but are more “artsy”, design (of products and services and user interfaces) is one of the surest ways for a non-technologist to thrive in an increasingly techno-centric world.

Strategists – in recent research conducted by our Center for the Future of Work, almost every one of the 2,500 leading executives we interviewed agreed that humans need to be more “strategic” in the face of growing automation. What does that mean?

Rote tasks — which still represent a substantial proportion of most people’s day-to-day work — are morphing into the machine, freeing up time and energy to ask better questions, craft better directions and generate more impactful innovation. This is happening at the executive level within your organisation – and in the small department where perhaps you work. The need to elevate the role of hominus relative to machina is the great challenge and opportunity in front of us all. So, there’ll be plenty of work for strategists to help CEO and boards understand what their company should do when machines do everything. And there will be plenty of work for you if you can think strategically about the work you do and how now to do it as software and robots become more and more intelligent, and more and more useful.

A final thought; only a third of our survey respondents think that the rise of artificial intelligence will lead to large-scale reductions in the number of people needed to “do” work, which is the widespread meme in today’s zeitgeist around AI and robots. The vast majority believe, as we do, that our unquenchable human ingenuity will continue to find plenty of work for human hands and brains to do to satisfy our existing and emerging wants and needs. When machines do everything there will still be plenty for humans to do. You should get on with it.

To better understand how your company can benefit from artificial intelligence, visit

Ben Pring is a co-author of 'What To Do When Machines Do Everything' (Wiley 2017) and leads Cognizant’s Centre for the Future of Work.


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