How to arm yourself against AI at work: the best books and courses – Yahoo News UK

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It’s been just over a year since artificial intelligence became a mainstream conversation topic with the launch of systems such as ChatGPT. What had felt like the dystopian stuff of sci-fi to most was suddenly an everyday reality as generative tools made it possible for anyone to play around with the tech. It rapidly made its way into offices, and many headlines purported a profound impact on the future of work.

Goldman Sachs has suggested that generative AI could impact 300 million full-time jobs worldwide by 2030. While recent research from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) predicted that as many as eight million UK jobs could be lost to AI in what it called the “worst case scenario” in the future. It comes after Meta Chief Mark Zuckerberg rocked the internet by announcing that his company would attempt to build an ‘AGI system’ which could theoretically carry out tasks on a par with human levels of intelligence — and make it freely available to the public. As well as igniting fears over ethics in politicians and experts, it led many to ask: is AI coming for my job?

The onset of AI-induced job cuts was signalled by IBM last May when they announced they had halted the hiring process on non-customer facing roles which could be done by AI. While British telecoms giant BT said it is planning to cut up to 55,000 jobs by 2030, with at least 10,000 potentially to be replaced by some form of artificial intelligence.

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It’s not just big tech companies who are onboarding AI systems. “We’ve seen a lot of experimentation around how generative AI tools could be used in the workplace, such as Chat GPT, across all sectors and organisations as well as by employees,” says Alan Turing Institute Ethics Fellow Mhaira Aitken. Specifically, these large language models and image generators have been used to do everything from create code to write blogs, automate customer service, design company graphics, research presentations and process insurance claims. And next? Video editing tools are the latest to gain pace.

ChatGPT’s userbase has been growing exponentially. It now has 180 million weekly users compared to 100 million monthly at the start of 2023. Its creators, OpenAI, have also reported that two million developers are currently working on custom apps on its platform. So no doubt one is coming to an office near you — if it hasn’t already. And if you’re left in any doubt about AI’s ubiquity, a European Union Law Enforcement Agency report suggested that 90 per cent of online content could be generated by it by 2026.

So which industries will be working with bots the most? Research by Unit for Future Skills from Gov UK is one of the first to quantify the impact of AI on the UK job market, pointing to white collar jobs involving clerical work and across finance, law and business management as the most likely to be aided by AI applications. This includes roles such as solicitors, management consultants, business analysts, accountants, psychologists and teachers — for whom large language models could be particularly relevant.

This means that Londoners are likely to be among the most impacted in the UK, due to the greater concentration of professional occupations in the city. And those in entry-level roles are currently most vulnerable to having tasks taken off their hands by AI.

Creative industries aren’t untouched, with marketing among the 20 highest listed jobs on the Gov UK survey, and as evidenced by fears which were highlighted in the SAG-AFTRA writers’ strike, as well as by artists who have raised lawsuits against misuse of their work online.

There is a narrative of AI as something really complex and that is [existentially] threatening. It doesn’t need to be like that. It’s not intelligent and never will be.

Though how fast will offices enter this new AI frontier? Oliver Latham, VP of Strategy and Growth at Pearson Workforce Skills, suggests that in the next ten years, “around 30 per cent or more of the tasks involved in the working week of some white-collar roles could be done by generative AI,” while this applies to less than 1 per cent in blue-collar jobs, such as trades people, sports people and drivers. In research from IBM across 22 nations, executives estimated that 40 per cent of their workforce will need to reskill as a result of implementing AI and automation over the next three years.

However, experts say that fears of an ‘AI apocalypse’ should be put aside. Aitken explains that understanding AI’s function (and not fearing it) is key to picturing the future of work. “There is a narrative of AI as something really complex and that is [existentially] threatening. It doesn’t need to be like that. It’s not intelligent and never will be: they’re computer programmes,” she assures. For the uninitiated, she explains, “in most cases these systems and tools can process large volumes of data, make patterns and based on those patterns they make predictions.” As such, generative AI should be seen as capable of enhancing processes and productivity, not as a replacement for human thought and problem solving.

This technology will free up time, allowing people to shift to focusing their time on innately human tasks. Generative AI is arguably the most significant technological shift we’ve seen in recent years.

Most experts suggest that AI will ‘augment’ most roles, not replace them. Latham agrees, “This technology will free up time, allowing people to shift to focusing their time on innately human tasks. Generative AI is arguably the most significant technological shift we’ve seen in recent years, and I believe it can have a positive impact on how people understand and prepare for the changing world of work.” Though he warns, “we need to act fast to adapt, upskilling and evolving to ride this wave of change.”

In terms of arming yourself against these changes, Aitken insists that the onus isn’t on individual employees, as “organisations and the government are responsible for making decisions about how these systems might be used.” Last month European parliament approved the world’s first framework to ensure the regulatory compliance of AI systems, with those that cause harm to society being banned. It comes as calls for guidance from hiring companies are being made, asking for clarity about where candidates can and can’t use AI in the application process. A growing number of people are thought to be using generative programmes to create interview answers and CVs, which has led to fears it is concealing their true level of ability as well as eradicating individualism.

However, there’s no denying that failing to learn how to work with AI is a sure-fire way to fall behind and be seen as a luddite. As IBM’s recent survey posits, “AI won’t replace people — but people who use AI will replace people who don’t.” And naturally, of the 27 per cent reported to be using AI in the UK, internet natives Generation Z are the early adopters, with 70 per cent said to use it and trust it. So it’s millennials, Gen X and above who may need to step up their game.

But where should you start if you don’t know the basics of AI? And how can you enhance the human skills that will set you apart? We asked experts, founders and a career coach to weigh in on where you can fit into the future of work.

Grasp the basics

“As employees look to the future, understanding which jobs are at risk allows them to prepare,” says Latham. So understanding the role AI might be able to play in your workplace will help you to get ahead in thinking about where you may be required to reskill or upskill in other areas.

Elements of AI (elementsofai.com) is a free course in bite size modules which has been used by more than 1 million people to understand the basics of what AI is and how it’s made, what it can (and can’t do) and how it will affect your job and life now, and in the future. And best of all you don’t need any programming or maths skills to complete it.

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Learn how to generate content

Taking an introductory course on generative programmes should shed light on the areas where you could speed up processes and redeploy free time elsewhere. Microsoft’s ‘What Is Generative AI?’ (linkedin.com) and Google’s ‘Introduction to Generative AI’ (cloudskillsboost.google) are both free — it might be wise to choose the one from your work’s preferred suite. While Deeplearning AI’s ‘Generative AI For Everyone’ (deeplearning.ai, free) gives you real-world examples of its use in the world today. Step things up with Udemy’s ‘Generative AI For Beginners’ (udemy.com, £59.99) for a comprehensive introduction to Google’s ecosystem of generative AI, including Bard and PaLM, and how to use them in the Google cloud.

Marketeers are ahead of the curve when it comes to deploying AI, and Kelly Montague, co-founder and director of Axe & Kettle, a luxury agency in the field, explains that her team use these generative tools as a daily assistant to “spark ideas that then need development and the input of our team’s shared experiences and expertise. We use nuances associated with our market sector, clients, the brands and audiences to really bring it to life beyond the generic.”

For example, the team use ChatGPT and Bard to generate high-level insights on specific topics or areas of interest, brainstorm initial ideas, and review content and copy. While in creative projects, the company uses Midjourney, Dall-E and Runway to generate inspiration for composition to help steer creative thought.

Keep doing your homework

Once you’re au fait with how the programmes work, subscribing to podcasts and newsletters and adding AI books to your shelf will ensure you’re in the loop as they become increasingly sophisticated. Evolving AI’s (evolvingai.io) hugely popular free newsletter delivers tri-weekly updates on courses, new tool releases, and news on how AI is impacting work and life.

For your commute, grab a copy of best-selling book The Coming Wave by Mustafa Suleyman (£15, Penguin), a must-read about the current revolution of technology, how it will transform the world, and whether the risks it brings can be controlled. And pre-order a copy of forthcoming book Generative AI in Practice: 100+ Amazing Ways Generative Artificial Intelligence is Changing Business and Society by Bernard Marr (£29.99, Wiley). It’s key reading for anyone interested in how AI will impact the working world from the futurist and business and technology thought leader whose blog (bernardmarr.com) and YouTube videos offer easy-to-digest info on what’s ahead for everyone from teachers to the customer service and marketing sectors, as well as pulling fascinating stats and stories related to AI at work. Aitken attests that it’s important to explore reading and resources specific to your sector as it will disrupt each one so differently.

Essential reading by Suleyman, Marr and Duhigg on AI and the superhuman skills that can make you stand out at work (ES Composite)

If podcasts are your preferred media, Montague recommends AI in Business hosted by Daniel Faggella (podcasts.apple.com), with industry leading guests offering intel on some of the most affected sectors, spanning insurance, marketing, retail and policy.

Make AI your MO

When AI is employed at work, human oversight should be seen as fundamental, which could be the basis of a career in itself if you discover a love of working with the systems. Previously there was a boom in what’s called ‘prompt engineering,’ which involved getting the best out of these systems, though Aitken suggests that these jobs may not have longevity seeing as the best tools are becoming increasingly intuitive.

However, “all industries are going to need people with expertise in generative AI: who understand how these systems work, the limitations and how to deploy them responsibly,” says Aitken. You could look to gain a data science or developer certificate to provide industry recognised credentials in AI and automation for a future role.

Or to swat up on how you could put AI technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing to use in your industry, you could attend courses by General Assembly (generalassemb.ly) or Imperial College London (imperial.ac.uk). While FutureLearn (futurelearn.com) and Coursera (coursera.org) have online options. For example if you work in education, the ‘Generative AI in Higher Education’ two-week course from King’s College London (kcl.ac.uk/short-courses via FutureLearn) is self-paced and explains AI’s implications for students, as well as academic and professional services staff.

Lead conversations about AI in the workplace

Leading conversations about AI at work could shine a light on your capabilities, not highlight a lack of (Alamy/PA)

Once you feel confident about how you could implement AI at work, Career Coach Alice Stapleton explains that having chats about this with your boss is a great way to shine a light on your capabilities, not highlight a lack of. “Honesty is the best policy here. Before using AI at work, discuss with your boss how you would like to use it in your role, and why — explaining that by automating some of your role, you’re freed up to focus on the more important complex and strategic parts of your role, which are often sidelined in favour of more urgent, day to day tasks,” she says. “Highlight how this shift in focus benefits the business, and your department specifically, in order to get them on board with the idea,” she adds.

According to a London School of Economics study 63 per cent of UK businesses are investing in AI training to bridge the skills gap and remain competitive, so you could have a say in which ones are offered, or benefit from open discussions about the current systems. “Often these decisions are top down, made by managers, thinking they’ll improve efficiency,” says Aitken. Therefore try having constructive conversations about “the challenges that you’re encountering and where a system could actually help, or highlight things you’re doing well with skills that that a system couldn’t replicate.”

Find your USP

Remembering which skills you use day to day that are uniquely human, and more importantly unique to you, will help you to discover where to invest more of the time you may begin to free up as your workplace moves into the new frontier. IBM’s recent study found executives are more focused on developing people skills, with time management and prioritisation, collaboration, and communication topping the list. It means that the new book Supercommunicators (Penguin, £22) from author of The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg is essential reading from anyone wanting to learn the art and science of connecting with others.

To confidently identify your USPs, Stapleton recommends completing a Myers Briggs personality assessment (16personalities.com), or a strengths assessment such as Strengths Profile (strengthsprofile.com) to start to learn how to make the most out of them.

Is AI making you consider a career change?

If the way generative AI is used in your workplace leads you to reassess your current job, Stapleton suggests the following five-step plan to find a new career that you love

1. The key is to take a step back and be proactive about the choices you want to make. Don’t be swayed by the easy option, or what others suggest should be your next move. Take the opportunity to first think deeply and clearly about what you really want from a career.

2. Consider your values, interests, strengths, what gives you a sense of purpose, what motivates you, what skills you want to use, what you’d love your working day to look like, and the type of environment you want to work in.

3. Pull together a shortlist of careers what seem to align well with these, and explore what they’re like in reality. Test them out by arranging shadowing, work experience, volunteering, talking to people in those professions, take short courses, attend events — anything to help you understand what that career is really like in real life.

4. From these experiences, assess how well these careers match up to what you said you wanted in a role. Use this assessment to help you decide which career is going to be right for you.

5. Once you’ve made the decision, create an action plan that details all the steps you’ll need to take to move into your new role or career. Break this plan down into small, micro steps you can start implementing straight way, and be sure to monitor your progress as you start to make things happen for yourself.

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