Want a tech job in 2024? Master language and liberal arts

If you’re updating your resume this holiday season, you’ll no doubt consider the impact of AI on your employability. While strong coding skills are valuable, don’t underestimate the significance of your background in fields like philosophy, literature, or anthropology.

Matt Candy, global managing partner in generative AI at IBM, believes the jobs of the future will be filled by those who can work with AI using language and creative thinking nurtured in liberal arts degrees. 

AI is ‘learning to talk our language’

IBM is stepping up its long-running efforts in AI as companies in every sector scramble to adapt to an automated future.

But the skills demanded of the workers hired to herald in that future aren’t necessarily going to be focused on the ability to fly through code or know their way around a circuit board. 

Instead, Candy thinks those who fundamentally understand language and how to apply it could be in line for high-paying jobs related to AI.

“Rather than us having to learn to talk the language of technology and programming computers, effectively they’re learning to talk our language,” Candy told Fortune

Candy was mainly referring to a jump in demand for the role of prompt engineers, where employees feed large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT and Bard prompts, questions, and information to train it up in human behavior and thinking.

These jobs can command six-figure salaries and typically don’t rely on IT skills.

As language models like ChatGPT face challenges in accuracy and may produce false information—known as “hallucinations”, the need for individuals with a strong grasp of language to train and interact with chatbots becomes more apparent.

Right-brainers in demand

Alongside the lucrative nature of the ability to improve how chatbots communicate, Candy also thinks demand for creative thinkers and graduates of liberal arts courses could broadly become higher than ever thanks to AI. 

Candy explained there is now a democratization of skills taking place in the tech world, lessening the importance of technical workers and increasing demand for right-brainers.

“Questioning, creativity skills, and innovation are going to be hugely important because I think AI’s going to free up more capacity for creative thought processes.

“The speed at which people will be able to come up with an idea, to test the idea, to make something, it’s going to be so accelerated. You don’t need to have a degree in computer science to do that.”

The proliferation of other AI software, like Dall-E, also means creative processes like graphic design will increasingly be the domain of people with ideas rather than those who spent years honing their technical skills.

“You’re going to be able to take on the role of a designer. You don’t need to be a graphic designer and have an art degree to do these things,” said Candy.

There will of course still be a big place for computer scientists.

“The world is being rewritten in code,” Candy says, as industries everywhere from automotive to oil and gas digitize and put new systems in place to take advantage of AI.

But once those systems are in place, Candy says, the creative thinkers may hold an advantage.

It tracks with research conducted into workplace personalities by Slack and polling company YouGov.

Dr Lynda Shaw, a business psychologist involved in the study, suggested workers with a higher emotional intelligence were more likely to become the CEOs of tomorrow’s AI-focused business landscape.

What jobs will AI take?  

The proliferation of AI in the last 12 months, kickstarted by the launch of the buzzy ChatGPT, has opened up new horizons for productivity, which Candy also predicts will help drive global GDP in 2024.

However, it has also caused mass anxiety among workers over whether their jobs will be replaced and prompted governments across the globe to push for regulation.

IBM’s chief executive said in May that the company would slow hiring for some of its roles, particularly in HR, where Candy says the vast majority of staff conversations now happen with a bot.

Speaking at Fortune‘s Brainstorm AI conference, Accenture CTO Paul Daugherty said there would be some “consolidation” of the workforce thanks to the growth of AI, with fewer people needed to do the same tasks.

“The biggest worry is the jobs for the people who won’t be using generative AI,” Daugherty said.

IBM’s Candy agrees that while he doesn’t see AI as a de facto replacer of jobs, it is likely that people who can’t use the technology will be replaced by those who can.

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