HBR: “Why Even AI-Powered Factories Will Have Jobs for Humans.” Where We See Opportunities for People.

Server room

The success of artificial intelligence depends on humans. It seems counterintuitive but that’s the reality Tesla CEO Elon Musk ran into in trying get a fully automated manufacturing plant to meet production goals.

As written in in the Harvard Business Review, when faced with the poor results, Tesla shut down production, revamped its strategy and hired hundreds of human employees to work with the robots. Musk himself admitted the failure of his AI-exclusive vision, tweeting, “Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated.”

According to Wilson and Daugherty, authors of the book, “Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI,” Musk isn’t the first to discover that truth:

In our global study of more than 1,000 companies at the forefront of implementing AI systems, we have found that the greatest performance gains are achieved not when machines are used to replace employees, but when they are deployed to work alongside them. In such collaborative relationships, people help machines become better, and machines enable people to achieve step-level increases in performance.

The human factor in machine-centric workplaces

We’ve long recognized the opportunities increasingly AI-centric workplaces provide for talented professionals to apply their know-how in exciting new ways, particularly for those in engineering and related fields. The businesses that understand these opportunities the best will surge ahead.

Aerotek’s Erica Kettner, an account manager focusing on manufacturing in the Midwest, said companies being transformed by technology put a premium on the human touch.

Jobs that were once 100 percent operator-controlled are now performed by machines, she said, but those machines require training by humans who have an elevated set of skills — the best and brightest in the industry.

“We call it the human factor and, by definition, machines can’t do it,” Erica said. “The companies we work with are designing, building and installing amazing machines with robotic sensors, X-rays —with artificial intelligence and machine learning powering it all. We’re helping them to find, train and deploy a new generation of workers needed to install and manage these machines in the workplace.”

Engineers make it possible

Aerotek Engineering Recruiting Team Lead Brian Johnson specializes in finding and recruiting talent to work on robotics, Internet of Things (IoT) and embedded technologies. But none of those technologies would be possible without the teams of people who get these technologies to work together.

“One of the biggest challenges in this emerging area of robotics, artificial intelligence and embedded networking is that each company is trying to build teams that connect such a diversity and number of devices and systems and platforms,” Brian said.

Finding opportunities in emerging roles

Success in this fourth industrial revolution doesn’t just depend on exceptional talent but also on an understanding of the emerging jobs.

As Wilson and Daugherty wrote:

“…It’s not just traditional jobs that are being extended to encompass new tasks. Our analysis has uncovered that entirely new categories of jobs are being created. Just as the internet revolution ushered in completely novel jobs — for example, web designer and search-engine optimization engineer — so will the new era of AI. Tesla, for instance, is recruiting robot engineers, computer vision scientists, deep learning scientists, and machine learning systems engineers.”

Bridging the gap between exceptional talent and the industries they revolutionize brings rewards for individuals, advances technology and ensures business success.

Just ask Rod Dockter, one of Brian’s success stories. Dockter was placed by Aerotek just after he completed his Ph.D. thesis: Dynamic Discriminant Analysis with Applications in Surgical Robotics. He said IoT and AI “captured my imagination, got me very excited about what could be possible in the future.”

“This all has brought me to my current position developing autonomous solutions for agricultural vehicles, which I certainly would never have imagined doing as a kid; however, I like to think my 10-year-old self would think it was cool.”

Wondering what emerging opportunities might be out there for you? Visit our job board or create a free career account today. Upload your resume and customize your job search based on your skills and interests. And consider reaching out to our recruiters who are skilled at providing career advice you can use.