June 22, 2024
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Eleven Critical, Indispensable Skills for the AI User

Will artificial intelligence displace me? Will it take my job? Will it render me obsolete? As an independent career coach, I can attest to the fact that this group of questions—and others like it—constitute the greatest collective and pressing fear.

Well, let me answer it bluntly: only if you let it. No transformation in history has ever become as eminent as fast as AI—not the PC, not the Industrial Revolution, not television, not the internet, not … well, nothing. No wonder it’s so ominous.

AI has gotten off to a fast, wild-and-wooly start, and it hasn’t given most of us enough time to understand it, thereby causing what amounts to a global case of heartburn and insomnia. But it doesn’t have to. If we slow down a bit and start asking good questions, this whole thing will look different.

And for my money, the many questions we can ask boil down to two: (1) What, exactly, is AI? (2) Do we let it become our master or our aide? And then comes the immediate question of the hour: if AI will change the whole world and the life of every single person in it, what skills will we need to use AI effectively? What does “effectively” mean creatively, productively, resourcefully, and advantageously?

I gathered a few of my respected peers who know more than I do and we tossed it around, knowing that we each probably had a few ideas, but only as a whole did we have, for the time being, “our” answer. (I also asked AI. Not surprisingly, AI agreed with us for the most part but missed a couple slam dunks. More on that later.)

Of note,we’re concerned here with the skills that AI users will need, not those that AI builders (techies) will need. That’s another kettle of fish altogether.

  1. Digital Literacy. This is foundational: basic computer skills, navigating the internet, comfort using new software for AI as it develops.
  2. Data Literacy. Understanding how data is used by AI systems and how we use (and misuse) data.

This includes data collection techniques, data privacy and the potential for data bias.

  1. Linguistic Literacy. Talk about foundational! This means how language works and how its components—vocabulary, grammar, syntax, semantics, and phonetics—work together. The better you are at this, the better AI will be.
  2. Critical Thinking. The ability to assess the information and knowledge presented by AI.

Remember, AI’s outputs are based on patterns of data and how that data is gathered by AI

and presented to you can vary wildly. Which brings up …

  1. Common Sense. While you’re being awed by how much data AI can get its hands on in a nanosecond and present to you the way you want, keep in mind that according to industry experts as much as 70% of its output could be wrong, suspicious or irrelevant.
  2. Voice-Text Interaction. Effective use of voice assistants was science fiction 50 years ago. Today? Ask Alexa how important it is.
  3. Personalization. AI doesn’t have to be an off-the-rack suit; it can just be a custom-made suit of clothes. Learn the settings.
  4. AI-Enhanced Creativity. Creativity and its offspring, innovation, are the result of a simulation of creative dissatisfaction with the status quo. We are all born with a sense of creativeness—that’s how babies explore their new world—but we lose it over time by seeking comfort in the status quo. Be in touch with your creativeness and ask AI for help.
  5. Ethics. AI has the capacity to do more good or more harm than any other invention in history. Go back and take that ethics course you should have taken in school.
  6. Collaboration. Like most other endeavors, teams go further than individuals. Sharpen your team building skills.
  7. The AI Here-Now. Stay up to date on AI’s comings and goings. The nature, pace and scope of change in AI will certainly make our heads spin, but we have no choice. AI is rapidly transforming from a strategic advantage to an operational advantage.

This list will surely change in both detail and scope. In fact, it probably has during the time you took to read this column.

Now, as for the two that AI didn’t get, it should be obvious: (1) Here-Now and (2) Common Sense. Let’s see now: No self-awareness and no intuition.

And that’s why AI will not displace you.


Eli Amdur has been providing individualized career and executive coaching as well as corporate leadership advice since 1997. For 15 years he taught graduate leadership courses at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He has been a regular writer for this and other publications since 2003. Amdur can be reached at [email protected] or (201) 357-5844.

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