Steve Streit On The AI Mega-Trend And The Future Of Work

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Will artificial intelligence replace us all? No one has a good answer for this question, but experienced people who watch the space closely believe it is difficult to overstate the practical impact of AI on how, where, and perhaps whether we work. 

For example, investor Steve Streit, whose venture capital portfolio includes several companies using AI to solve some of the world’s trickiest problems, predicts “AI will likely be a core trend behind every other trend” because it “ has a use case in nearly all applications of industry.” 

Streit isn’t alone. Many investors, corporate leaders, and AI experts believe that while AI’s most revolutionary impacts will take some time to arrive, the technology will soon change how many of us approach our work. 

This is already happening in some industries, and the changes are just beginning. Here is how experts like Steve Streit think about the future of work in a world of steadily improving, increasingly prevalent AI models and applications. 

Early Changes Will Be Incremental (Mostly) 

In the short term, AI’s effects on the workplace will be subtle for most of us, if we even notice them at all. Think new apps that utilize AI and make certain tasks go a bit faster or produce slightly better results, or generative AI solutions that support faster writing and coding. 

These solutions are unlikely to replace workers en masse, although they may allow individual employees to do more and reduce the need for employers to hire additional help. However, they may eventually evolve into more sophisticated, powerful solutions that do end up replacing workers. The first to go will probably be those who resist adopting AI tools in their own work. 

Some Problems Will Prove More Difficult To Solve Than Expected 

We have all heard stories about embarrassing AI “fails,” where algorithms hallucinate, malfunction, or otherwise do something other than what their designers intended. Like any new technology, AI will face growing pains, even as the “direction of travel” toward more sophisticated and capable tools remains clear. 

Yet AI researchers and commercial developers will face more difficulty than expected in solving certain challenges. One well-known example is self-driving technology, which many early advocates predicted would be the default mode of personal motor vehicle transportation by the mid-2020s (or in some cases, even earlier). Yet self-driving technology remains bogged down by serious technical challenges and related safety concerns, and universal adoption appears to be many years off. 

The same is true of generative AI, where bias in AI hiring tools raises larger questions about whether technology can adequately manage subtle social signals. The AI developer community should eventually solve these challenges, but they offer a reminder that progress rarely happens in a straight line. 

Users Who Adapt To New Technologies Could Outcompete Their Peers 

As noted, the first employees to lose work because of AI will most likely be those that resist adopting AI tools in their own work. The flip side of this is that employees who do embrace AI may find fewer barriers to career advancement. They will be more productive, more effective, maybe even better at certain “soft skills,” all of which will aid their progression to more senior roles. 

Think of it this way: If the workers least likely to lose out because of AI are those who “supervise” increasingly powerful algorithms, the best bet is to put yourself in a position to progress quickly to that level of responsibility. 

Some Employers Will “Over-Index” On AI 

Some leaders genuinely believe that AI will replace most human workers in the near future. Others take a more measured, even skeptical, approach. 

Based on what we know right now, a measured approach could be the right one. Employers who cut human workers too fast risk putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage if rapid advances in AI capabilities fail to materialize on “schedule.” If those advances take much longer than expected, that competitive disadvantage could turn into a structural weakness, which could in turn become an existential threat. 

Navigating The Future Of Work And AI 

It is okay to worry a bit about what the rise of AI could mean for your current job, and perhaps your ability to make a living at all. 

However, a bit of a reality check is in order, courtesy of experts like Steve Streit: AI might be getting better with each passing month, but it is still not capable of replacing high-level human decision-making. It might not have that capability for a long time, maybe long enough not to have to worry about what it means for you personally. 

Then again, innovation has a way of happening slowly, then all at once. Maybe AI researchers will announce a major breakthrough next year that has real, and scary, implications for professional workers. Maybe that breakthrough will be followed by another breakthrough, and another and another, until it is clear that AI has surpassed many capabilities we think of as uniquely human. 

No one knows for sure. As with any other trend that could affect your industry and your livelihood, the best advice experts like Streit give is to pay attention to AI developments and work to “future-proof” your skills where you can.

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