We need to have a real conversation about how society perceives AI (artificial intelligence). Quite frankly, I think many people see it as this technology that is going to come in and take over our work and our play. It is going to fundamentally change, well, everything. Thank you very much Steven Spielberg and Haley Joel Osment for painting a very vivid picture that is hard to ignore. However, we need to have a real conversation about the true impact that it is going to have on our work.

I recently attended a school board meeting in my town where the superintendent gave a speech about the need for upgrading facilities and classrooms to be more modern to meet the growing needs of our students and the changing workforce, as evident by the advent of new technologies. Great, let’s modernize. But one of the points in his presentation had me concerned.

He made this point: AI is coming and it is going to replace jobs. We are no longer going to need workers in traditional professions; rather we need more people in tech-centric roles.

He is not wrong, on the surface, especially if you look at predictions from educational institutions, experts, and analysts. Brookings Institution released a report earlier this year called Automation and Artificial Intelligence, and in it explains how machines are affecting people and places. It says approximately 25% of U.S. employment will face high exposure to automation in the coming decades.

This is all true. AI is coming and will augment the way we work, but it won’t replace everybody. In a recent conversation with Dan Patterson, chief design officer, InEight, he echoed a similar sentiment, saying, “One of the challenges we ran into in the early days is there was a degree of skepticism from the project community that AI was being pitched as a way to replace humans expertise and it couldn’t be further from the truth. It is simply augmenting human and their expertise so they can focus on the useful tasks.”

This is so important to understand—and I am not sure society as a whole, and that superintendent, really gets this. AI will augment our work. We need the combination of machine learning and human intelligence to make it tick.

Further, there is one very, very important factor that superintendent left out of his speech—and perhaps it is on his mind and perhaps it is not. We are already experiencing a very significant labor shortage in construction. In this industry, AI is going to help augment the shortage that already exists.

I wanted to stand up in that meeting and ask, although it wasn’t the point of the meeting so I didn’t: Are you still planning to encourage students to consider a career in the trades? Are you still going to teach students to work with their hands? Please, by all mean, teach them the technology that goes alongside it, but don’t make it an all-or-nothing proposition.

Schools, administrators, all across the country, hear this: Yes, technology is coming. Yes, we need to prepare our students and constantly evolve our curriculums to leverage the latest and greatest technologies. After all, that is what we are all about here at Constructech. But we also need to recognize that we still need woodworkers and electricians. We still need skilled trades—now more than ever before. Please don’t forget about that, as you are reading the latest analyst report on AI.

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Laura Black
Laura Blackeditor