From computer to coworker: AI and robots in the workplace

Siri, how do you spell artificial intelligence (AI)?

Five minutes into this article and I’ve already called on my own tech. With eight tabs open and a deadline looming, it seemed like a good idea to outsource.

Welcome to the year 2018, where hiring a robot is convenient, cheap and can save employers a heap of work.

But also where, as future job seekers, their professional presence can be advantageous in boosting our employment prospects and creating a host of new serviced-based roles –development, testing, support, maintenance, and programming gigs!

Yep, in a recent survey of 1000 companies, 80% reported the adoption of AI had created – rather than diminished – human job opportunities.

Because, let’s face it, machines still need intervention to operate smoothly.

Digital employees: more pros than cons

Director of research training at the Civil Engineering Department, Monash University, Professor Hai L. Vu knows about the capabilities of digital-aware employees. He’s been working on AI algorithms and in-vehicle tech to deliver more efficient and sustainable transport options.

“The benefits will include a better travel experience that’s accessible to everyone, less pollution and more sustainable transport systems,” he says.

AI isn’t just reserved for the roads.

Classrooms in Queensland have been trialling the Australian-developed ZenoBot – a virtual assistant teacher that runs on a large interactive screen at the front of the class and on students’ laptops.

The avatar-led tech, developed by ListPremier, allows teachers to focus more on students’ needs, by helping to create content, lead discussions, play videos and narrate text.

“I can do many things for you,” promises the ZenoBot in the program’s five-minute demo video. “Create the content you want and have me deliver the information in any of 21 languages.”

It’s a cool idea – but are we ready to replace teachers… who are human… and like their job?


Hot tip: 5 skills you need to get a job in an automated world

1 Creativity! New ideas are gig-scoring gold.

2 Problem-solving smarts! Because robots can’t technically ‘think’ for themselves…

3 Digital fluency! Speaking AI is invaluable.

4 Flexibility! AI technologies mean less predictability.

5 Adaptability! Working with ever-updating data demands constant change.


More AI, more (productive) work time

With the Australian government allocating a $30 million budget to AI development in 2018, the ultimate decision on where and how we want
to utilise this tech is critical.

“It’s important students are familiar with digital literacy and also curious about solving problems in different ways,” says Hai, stressing the need
to keep up with AI.

“AI will change the way we think, live and learn.”

Sure, they’re cheap-to-employ, all-knowing geniuses (*sigh*) but before resigning yourself to the fact that a robot will snatch your dream career goal, keep in mind there are plenty of benefits too.

The automation of the workplace will mean that by 2030 we’ll spend significantly less time on often menial, manual jobs.

According to a report drafted by The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), this will include three hours less per week on workplace tasks like operating assembly lines, retrieving or stacking items, administration and cleaning. Which is a good thing, right? Especially when it means that we’ll have
1.5 hours more a week to devote to creative thinking – a skill increasingly needed when developing automated software.

Becoming fluent in robot – coding, programming, engineering and digital everything – will mean you can work with the tech, not for it.

Or at the very least, talk about something other than the weather with a particularly chatty AI in the back of a driverless car!

– Cassie Steel

artificial intelligence



UNSW, Bachelor of Science (Computer Science)
University of Tasmania, Bachelor of Information and Communication Technology
University of Technology Sydney, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning short course
Massey University, Bachelor of Information Sciences (Computer Science)


Robot engineer:

AU$40K–$119K / NZ$43K–$129K

Technology consultant:

AU$52K–$123K / NZ$47K–$141K

Computer programmer:

AU$43K–$95K / NZ$44K–$97K

Software engineer:

AU$59K–$122K / NZ$49K–$98K
*Source: salaries according to
Cassie Steel

Author: Cassie Steel

Cassie Steel is a Sydney-based journalist who specialises in health, beauty, lifestyle, tech and entertainment content.


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