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Feb 20, 2023

The Must-Have Skills in the Era of Artificial Intelligence: How AI’s Democratization Will Impact Workers

Part of our series on Business Resilience

With the advent of ChatGPT, the democratization of AI has begun. By that, I mean AI has moved into a new domain; until now, it has been embedded in mostly unseen applications like Google Search, Facebook and Twitter (all of whom use it to increase engagement), as well as a basis for recommendations on sites such as Amazon and Netflix. Now, however, artificial intelligence will be interacting much more directly with humans—and doing so in a more human manner. Of course, we’ve had Alexa and Siri for a while now, but their abilities are limited to short answers and simple tasks. ChatGPT can carry on deep conversations with you on an unlimited variety of topics.

More importantly, ChatGPT and other programs like it (Google’s Bard, for example) can replicate the work performed across the knowledge worker class, as well as the domain-related tasks within specific knowledge worker professions. This gives us a glimpse of what ever-more-powerful AI tools might be able to do, which is both exciting and to say the least, unsettling.

As illustrated here, ChatGPT can help you do many office tasks, such as writing emails, outlining slide presentations and articles, brainstorming ideas on a variety of subjects, helping with several teaching tasks (e.g., crafting learning outcomes, writing test questions, and grading), and learning about a myriad of topics.[1] Related “generative AI” tools can go even further and write full articles, generate amazing images, write computer code, create videos, offer medical advice, provide therapy, assist in legal talks, and compose music. These abilities impact specific professions such as programmers, graphic designers, doctors, and lawyers.

Will AI Replace Me?

Given these capabilities, AI will definitely change how professional work is done. Will AI replace humans in these cognitive professions, much as machines have replaced humans performing manual labor? When answering this question, there are a few possible scenarios to consider.

  1. AI will not replace all cognitive jobs, but it will substantially change many of them.
    Given what AI tools like ChatGPT and others can do this is going to happen. It will just impact different professions at different rates. Those most impacted will be jobs where generative AI is growing; creative jobs in journalism, ad agencies, design firms; the video and music industries; and IT, medicine and law. AI tools will replace some of the work done, either within those organizations or by consumers outside those companies performing the work themselves (e.g., creating their own images and logos for personal use).

  2. You won’t be replaced by AI. You will be replaced by a person with AI skills.
    The more than AI tools can be used to be productive in your job, the more this will be true for you. People who are fluent in generative and other types of AI will be able to get more done, be more creative, and learn faster than their counterparts who cannot. It behooves you to become proficient in these tools. Some interesting examples of how some professionals are using ChatGPT to be more productive include real estate agents using it to create listings, marketers using it to create video scripts, a designer using it to create a branding guide and a teacher using it to better serve students.

  3. AI will eliminate some jobs in specific professions.
    At this point it is too early in the evolution of generative AI to say but it would seem logical that it will replace some percent of jobs in the specific professions mentioned above in #1.

  4. AI will create new jobs.
    It is unclear how many new jobs generative AI will create, however, we are seeing some already appear, mostly around the ability to write good prompts for the AI. We are seeing this especially for ChatGPT text entry to text output and tools like DALL-E which is text entry to image output. For example, BuzzFeed is asking its employees to use ChatGPT to “write inspired prompts” to create content while a market has been created for people who can write prompts that create the highest quality generated artwork.

What Skills Will I Need in the AI Future?

Knowing that AI will play an ever increasing role in our workplace and economy, some fundamental principles for surviving and thriving in this new world apply.

  1. Building skills that are not easily replicated by AI. This is a little tougher than one might think because AI is being applied in some many arenas. Columnist David Brooks, in an article titled In the Age of A.I., Major in Being Human, believes capabilities such as empathy, creativity, having a unique worldview, and situational awareness will be the key to success. This is consistent with a study done by McKinsey on the impact of AI. Based on research in 15 countries involving 18,000 people, it recommended individuals focus on adding value beyond what AI can offer. The McKinsey study also recommended two other approaches:

  2. Ability to operate in an AI environment. Essentially this digital fluency in AI and other digital technologies. Those that know be more productive using these tools will surpass their peers.

  3. Resilience and Adaptability. AI and other technologies will not only disrupt the economy and workplace, they will do so at an ever increasing pace. Only those who are flexible will be able to navigate this dynamic environment.

McKinsey’s report states there are 56 “DELTAs” (Distinct Elements of Talent) that are a combination of both skills and attitudes. These fall into four buckets: Self-Leadership, Digital, Interpersonal and Cognitive, as seen in the image below.

Dondi, M., Klier, F., & Schubert, J. (2021, June 25). Defining the skills citizens will need in the future world of work. McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/public-and-social-sector/our-insights/defining-the-skills-citizens-will-need-in-the-future-world-of-work

Out of those 56 DELTAs, they found nine that most highly correlated with increased employment, income, and job satisfaction. These were: self-confidence, coping with uncertainty, ability to synthesize information, synthesizing messages, adaptability, self-motivation and wellness, work-plan development and organizational awareness.


In sum, in the short term, new AI tools will substantially change and in some cases may eliminate many knowledge worker jobs. To be successful in the coming era one must not only become fluent in these tools, but also be a self-confident, self-motivated, mentally strong individual who can deal with uncertainty by being adaptable and resilient, synthesize messages and information, plan and navigate large organizations.

The democratization of AI is here – are you ready?

[1] However, one must be careful. ChatGPT and other tools like it often “hallucinate” 15%-20% of the time, giving incorrect answers or making up sources. One must check the AI output carefully before relying on it.

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