The gig economy is growing fast, but are some freelance jobs in danger of becoming obsolete as tasks and processes are automated with AI?
Artificial intelligence (AI) may not be something we think about daily, but, over the past decade, it has been gradually become integrated into our mobile devices, back-end systems that power the websites and online services we use, and software tools that we use to do our work.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the influence of AI developments over several tasks performed by freelancers that find work on platforms such as Conyac.
Freelancer Tasks that AI is Changing
Thanks to AI machine translation (MT) has seen dramatic quality improvements over the past decade. MT performs best with content genres such as instruction manuals or legal documents that are literal in nature. However, a knowledgeable human is still required to check and proofread the end results.
MT is still not useful for translating content genres which require an understanding of context, culture, and expressions. Humans are still required for this; however, it can be said that MT is increasingly augmenting their work and helping them to be more productive.
This is an area where AI will eventually replace humans. If you want to see how good state-of-the-art AI systems are today, go to YouTube and find a video that hasn’t had closed captions added manually. Most don’t, and so you can see the ones which YouTube’s AI has generated.
The system still struggles with background noise, poor enunciation, dialects, and other factors that humans can more easily handle. Humans are still required to check and edit the automatically generated captions. Furthermore, less common languages and dialects are not yet well catered for.
The gap is closing fast for the most commonly used languages, and humans will become obsolete for their transcription in the not too distant future.
Proofreading, Editing, and Rewriting
If you’re under 40, then you likely grew up with spell-checking and have only noticed incremental improvements over the years. However, over the past decade, AI-powered editing tools are increasingly able to suggest corrections and improvements for grammar, style, and tone. They work best with US English for now, but similar technology is being applied to other dialects of English and even different languages.
However, these tools are of no use unless you have a certain level of skill as a writer in the chosen language. For example, non-native English-speakers will struggle in many cases to recognize whether or not the tool’s suggestions are appropriate. Furthermore, even if all grammatical and spelling errors are corrected, the document may still be poorly written.
Therefore, we can say that, for the foreseeable future, these tools will continue to only augment the capabilities of a human proofreader or editor.
Photo Editing and Restoration
Another task that is easy to outsource to freelancers is the editing and restoration of photographs. AI has added some impressive capabilities to image editing software, and recent technical developments that have yet to become available to the masses promise even further advances. Furthermore, innovative app developers are providing these capabilities to people in the form of apps which are easy enough for even a child to use.
However, a human is still required to make adjustments and judge the final result. Thus, we can say that, similar to the editing of text content, that these tools will only continue to augment the abilities of someone who has a highly developed sense of visual aesthetics.
We can expect to see similar advances in the editing and restoration of audio and video content.
What Can You Do?
None of us want to find our skills obsolete and unable to secure work. Here’s what freelancers can do to not only survive but thrive.
Adapt: Mindset is vital to success. Understand that the only constant is change and it’s going to continue moving ever faster. Be continually seeking to adapt and calibrate to what the market wants.
Stay Informed: You don’t need to ravenously devour every piece of news on new technology in your field daily, but you should definitely keep an eye out for developments that will change both your work and client expectations.
Ride the Waves: In the short-term, new AI-powered tools can give you a leg up on the competition and allow you to earn more in less time. However, mid to long term, as the said tool goes mainstream, both your competitors and clients will become aware of it. You’ll need to keep shifting your positioning and service offerings to remain relevant.
Diversify: Don’t be reliant on offering just a single service for your income via sites such as Conyac. Have at least two that are considerably different.
Add Value: Constantly be looking for ways to stand out and be more valuable than your competitors.
Be Human: There are many tasks that AI does poorly; especially those that require subjective judgment, creativity, understanding of context, knowledge, and life experience. Focus on building your career in these areas.
The changes seen during the industrial revolution displaced many people, but eventually created more jobs. The same will happen as AI develops. It’s our responsibility to find ways to profit from these changes instead of becoming casualties.
At the end of the day, clients want their tasks completed properly, on time, and for the lowest cost possible. They don’t care whether you do it manually or augment your capabilities with an AI-powered tool. However, if said tools become easy enough to access and use by themselves, the client will stop outsourcing it to humans. When that happens, you want to be already well-positioned with services that cannot yet be fully performed by automated systems.
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