A Nobel Prize-winning economist is sounding the alarm about the future of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers amid the rapid development of artificial intelligence, arguing that many of the currently in-demand jobs could soon be obsolete.
“The skills that are needed now — to collect the data, collate it, develop it and use it to develop the next phase of AI, or more to the point, make AI more applicable for jobs — will make the skills that are needed now obsolete because it will be doing the job,” said Christopher Pissarides, a professor of economics at the London School of Economics, in a recent interview, according to a report from Time. “Despite the fact that you see growth, they’re still not as numerous as might be required to have jobs for all those graduates coming out with STEM because that’s what they want to do.”
The comments come as 2023 became a breakthrough year for AI technology, which has rapidly developed and gained increased mainstream applications. But some have feared that such technology will make many current jobs obsolete, causing a major disruption to the world’s labor markets.
Despite the current high demand for young students to enter STEM fields, Pissarides says that could also change as AI continues to improve.
“This demand for these new IT skills, they contain their own seeds of self-destruction,” the award-winning economist said.
Samuel Mangold-Lenett, a staff editor at The Federalist, told Fox News Digital that AI can benefit STEM workers by doing much of the “grunt work” that takes its human counterparts more time to complete, but he warned there is a danger in becoming too reliant on the technology.
“It can process data and run simulations in a fraction of the time that students, or even experts, are able to. It can also allow for more complex problem-solving purely by the sheer amount of information it can process and the speed at which it can process it,” Mangold-Lenett said. “We need to be careful, however, not to become overreliant on AI. It could … eliminate thousands of jobs and eliminate the demand for people to master skill sets that enabled us to become an advanced civilization.”
Jon Schweppe, the policy director of the American Principles Project, echoed a similar sentiment, telling Fox News Digital that there is a risk in allowing AI to do too much of the work for us.
“While AI will replace some jobs in the IT industry, IT professionals are by far the most likely to adapt and learn new relevant skills.”
“There’s a serious risk in the rush to improve AI technology that we lose sight of what this is all for. Do we really want to live in a society where AI is directing our civilizational progress and we are simply slaves to its inhuman whims and impulses? Of course not,” Schweppe said. “AI can certainly increase what we are capable of, but it should be viewed as merely a tool to further humanity’s desired ends, not as something divine to which we must subordinate ourselves.”
According to the Time report, Pissarides remains an optimist about AI, arguing that its overall impact on the jobs market will be positive.
That notion is shared by other experts, who note there will still be many jobs that AI will not be able to handle compared with humans.
“Any job where there is a lot of repetition and there is a ‘right’ answer could be in danger, especially ones where you can gain from parsing a lot of disparate data. So, coding, paralegal, factory jobs that don’t require judgment, economic statistical models, etc.,” Phil Siegel, the founder of the Center for Advanced Preparedness and Threat Response Simulation, told Fox News Digital. “But not all STEM or white-collar jobs are this way. Many require judgment that we can’t trust an untrained model that will hallucinate to complete. Engineering (E) is in the most danger, but the S and M, not so much. The T is broad and some jobs may be in danger and others not.”
Meanwhile, Pioneer Development Group Chief Analytics Officer Christopher Alexander argued that STEM is “the entire reason we have AI in the first place.”
“You cannot advance the state of AI and properly engineer for the future without computer science and mathematics for data modeling,” Alexander told Fox News Digital. “While AI will replace some jobs in the IT industry, IT professionals are by far the most likely to adapt and learn new relevant skills.”
Instead, Siegel argued that since it is impossible to predict just how AI will develop, people should learn to become familiar with the technology’s tools while still encouraging work in STEM fields.
“High school students in particular should absolutely focus on STEM and so they can keep their options open as they move to college and consider careers and advanced degrees,” Alexander said. “While the need for a certain type of IT skill set may change, civilization now is built upon food, water, energy and [computer] processing power. From farming to Edge computing, STEM is the building block you start from.”
Pissarides says there will be long-term opportunity in fields that emphasize communication and customer service.
“When you say the majority of jobs will be jobs that will involve personal care, communication, good social relationships, people might say, ‘Oh, God, is that what we have to look forward to in the future?'” Pissarides said in the interview. “We shouldn’t be looking down at these jobs. They’re better than the jobs that school-leavers used to do.”