AI may be the new flu: everyone knows it's coming but no one thinks it will hit them next.

In other words, no need for that AI flu vaccine.

In a new Gallup survey for Northeastern University, 61% of Canadians and 71% of Americans think artificial intelligence will eliminate more jobs than it creates. Roughly half of those respondents think AI will also decrease the number of good jobs out there.

But the vast majority also think they’re immune to automation.

Despite a general concern about the impact of AI, only 37% of Canadians and 17% of Americans think their job will be eliminated because of smart technologies.

The Gallup results were presented at a recent Future of Work discussion at Northeastern’s Toronto campus, put on by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and RBC.

Helena Gottschling, RBC’s global head of human resources, told the forum that in financial services, automation is leading to new and different jobs – and a changing mix of skills – which means an ever-growing need for lifelong learning.

More than half of RBC’s 55,000 Canadian employees are enrolled in a digital learning program, often offered in the form of mobile and modular programs for skills ranging from digital troubleshooting to communications.

In the Gallup survey, 92% of Canadians (and 95% of Americans) said they want some form of ongoing learning through their careers – not surprising given that two thirds of them worry their skills will be outdated within a decade.

Despite those worries, few know what skills they’ll need to thrive in an AI-powered economy, but there was strong agreement across Canada, the U.S. and Britain that people will need so-called soft skills like teamwork, communication, creativity and critical thinking.

Gottschling agreed with that assessment, saying “the shelf life of tech skills will be shorter, while the shelf life of human skills will be just as long.”

A greater concern in the study was a lack of confidence in universities — for Canadians as well as American and Britons – to prepare graduates for the jobs of tomorrow. A rating of high confidence was lowest (3%) in the U.S.

A plurality of respondents viewed employers as best-equipped to provide career-long education and training.

Gottschling said most employees need solutions that are affordable, time-efficient and relevant to their ambitions. And then there’s mindset. Do people have the will and skill to learn?

 

John Stackhouse is a nationally bestselling author and one of Canada’s leading voices on innovation and economic disruption. He is senior vice-president in the Office of the CEO at Royal Bank of Canada, leading the organization’s research and thought leadership on economic, technological and social change. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of the Globe and Mail and editor of Report on Business. He is a senior fellow at the C.D. Howe Institute and the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and sits on the boards of Queen’s University, the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada and the Literary Review of Canada. His latest book, "Planet Canada: How Our Expats Are Shaping the Future", explores the untapped resource of the millions of Canadians who don’t live here but exert their influence from afar.

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