Older Workers With People Skills Could Thrive During the AI Boom

There’s been a lot of buzz about whether artificial intelligence could take your job — or, more precisely, whether a Gen Zer who knows how to use AI to their advantage could take your job.

But as one Oxford economist told Insider, there’s another set of workers that could benefit from an AI boom: workers with the people skills that AI can’t replicate.

“People who can make their presence felt in a room and have the capacity to forge relationships, motivate, and convince are the ones who will thrive in the age of AI,” said Carl Benedikt Frey, who coauthored a highly publicized 2013 paper that estimated 47% of all US jobs were at risk of being replaced by automation as soon as the 2020s. 

Now, 10 years after his paper’s publication, Frey is optimistic that the rise of generative AI won’t result in massive job displacement anytime soon. But he said that AI’s ability to automate online tasks could make some remote jobs vulnerable and that older workers might have highly valuable experience that couldn’t be automated away.

After years of working in office environments and cultivating social and leadership skills, company veterans could be well suited for a world in which Frey said generative AI was “putting a premium on face-to-face interaction.”

In this future, Frey said, “it is likely that older workers with more experience in managerial positions are better placed.”

Frey and other experts do believe Gen Z will probably be fine, as younger generations have historically adapted better to new technologies — and should be able to learn and eventually master the AI tools that become key to their jobs.

But simply learning these tools may not be enough. If the widespread use of AI tools like ChatGPT levels the playing field in industries like writing, coding, and graphic design and makes them more competitive, young workers may have to venture offline to stand out.

That’s because there are simply some things AI can’t do. That’s where human interaction — along with soft skills like teamwork, creativity, and adaptability — comes in.

“Generative AI can reproduce much of the interactions we do online,” Frey said, adding that workers who “engage more in virtual communication” would be more vulnerable to AI automation.

“Remote roles will be more exposed to automation,” Frey said, “while in-person interactions, which cannot readily be substituted for, become more valuable.”