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Will AI and Generative Design Steal our Engineering Jobs?

Trevor English
March 10, 2017

In our current state, artificial intelligence and generative design are some of the most exciting advances in engineering technology. However, should we be fearing that our jobs as engineers and designers are quickly being stolen?

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Having jobs stolen by robots is not a new fear, but it hasn’t always been one that extended into more technical career paths. Seeing how a robot could steal a manufacturing workers job may be easy, but come on, they could never do what I do. Now, it’s starting to seem like engineering and more technical jobs may not be safe with current advances.

While our jobs may be feeling less secure, the AI revolution has a plan for unskilled and skilled workers alike. Speaking from an economic burden and cultural perspective, it would be irresponsible to allow innovation to make humans unnecessary. From an efficiency perspective, removing the tricky nature of humans from the equation is supreme optimization. Leading experts don’t believe that we will be jobless in the future thanks to AI, but our jobs will probably look a little different, according to Wired.

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Just like how our jobs have moved and shifted today since new technology has been introduced, so too will shifting occur for jobs of the future. AI and generative design may replace some of the need for designers, draftsmen, engineers, and so on, but our jobs will shift into new areas with as much potential as before.

For civil engineers, imagine a world where AI automatically preps your survey data and lays groundwork for a new site within CAD. This would mean that the civil engineer could spend more time designing, optimizing, and working with the client to make sure everyone is happy.

For mechanical engineers, imagine a world where a machine can generate your parts for you, and all you need to do is optimize and select components on a grander scale. Digging even deeper into this, imagine the future of mechanical engineers as teaching robots and AI how to design and how to innovate. AI algorithms will need someone to learn from, and for a significant portion of their future, they will learn to design from mechanical engineers.

For manufacturing engineers, imagine an AI that could layout a manufacturing plant in perfect optimized forms. You could focus more on selecting the optimum plant layout, improving manufacturing processes and so on.

For now, there is no reason to think that AI and generative will result in a total loss of jobs, although there are a decent number across all fields at risk, according to The Guardian. Our jobs will change and shift as technology improves. The first things to go by the way of AI will be the processes engineers consider most menial. Importing data, updating references, formatting. If anything, AI and generative in the life of the engineer will improve our quality of work life, our quality of design, and ultimately improve our ability to be the best engineers that we can be.

Images: [1], [2] 

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Trevor English

Trevor is a civil engineer by trade with an extensive background in technical writing and content production. He is inspired by finding new and interesting technologies and bringing them to the world.

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