Combating ‘AI Anxiety’: Reframing Job Insecurity into Upskilling and Reskilling Opportunities

In March 2023, Goldman Sachs published a report that highlighted the potential impact of artificial intelligence on the global job market, painting a seemingly bleak picture of the future. The report suggested that up to 300 million jobs could be at risk of replacement due to the rapid advancement of technology, including cognitive AI tools like ChatGPT. This has led to a growing phenomenon known as “AI anxiety,” where people fear losing their jobs to AI. According to PwC’s Global Workforce Hope and Fears Survey 2022, nearly a third of respondents expressed concerns that their jobs could be replaced by technology. This fear is further amplified by recent advances in AI, which can now perform complex tasks, such as passing the attorney bar exam and creating artwork in mere minutes.

It is not uncommon for people to experience emotional reactions such as fear and anxiety in response to the unknown and potentially disruptive changes brought about by AI. Nevertheless, Eric Dahlin, a sociology professor at Brigham Young University, stated that people overestimate the risk of job-loss to AI by two times or more. More importantly, the emergence of AI is not necessarily a zero-sum game. In other words, humans and technology can coexist and work together in a complementary manner.

In her latest article on The Times, Professor Lynda Gratton discusses the experiences of people who work closely with technology. Drawing from the research of Daron Acemoglu, a US economist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, there are three types of experience: (1) ‘Winners’ are people who manage to learn novel skills and transition upwards to a more advanced job, (2) ‘Neutrals’ are people who are reskilled and moved horizontally into an equivalent job with part of their job supported by technology, and (3) ‘Losers’ are people who are forced to move downwards to lower-paid and less secure jobs.

So how could some people transform into the ‘winner’ state with the advent of AI and other advanced technology? We present three considerations at the individual, organisation, and regulatory level:

Individual-level – People can build awareness that there is a possibility that part of their job could be performed by AI and other advanced technology as ways of working evolve. Understanding that there could be a complementary relationship between technology and humans and accepting the need for transition can help motivate people to upskill or reskill themselves.

Organisational-level – Organisations can provide adequate resources to help their people identify and address skill gaps to cope with changing job requirements. Human-centric skills, like empathy and communication, are becoming more important to preserve human authenticity and help people succeed in the age of AI.

Regulatory-level – Governments can set regulations and guidelines to establish boundaries on the business activities that can involve the support of AI and technology. They can also collaborate with organisations to provide financial support and resources for people who experience job displacement to be reskilled.

You can read Professor Lynda Gratton’s latest article on “How we can protect jobs from the ChatGPT revolution” here.