Gen Z—not baby boomers—are most afraid of AI because they haven't experienced any other tech booms



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Despite being the most digitally savvy generation to enter the workforce yet, your Gen Z hires are probably more terrified of artificial intelligence stealing their jobs than your more senior (and perhaps, less technologically advanced) baby boomers.

That’s according to Indeed’s AI boss, at least—and she has data to back it up.

The globally renowned recruitment company surveyed over 3,500 leaders and 3,743 job seekers across the U.K., the U.S., Canada, India, France, Japan and Germany, and found that while a quarter of job seekers overall are fearful about the impact of AI at work, this jumps to over 30% for respondents between 18 and 24 years old.

In comparison, for those over 45 years old, the percentage of those who are afraid drops to under 15%.

“My hypothesis is that older workers have seen this story before. They lived through the rise of the PC, they lived through the rise of the internet,” Hannah Calhoon, Indeed’s head of AI innovation tells Fortune.

Put yourselves in Gen Z’s shoes: Imagine entering the job market, full of hope for the future career that lies ahead of you, only to hear from the likes of the investment bank Goldman Sachs that AI could replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs globally in the coming years. 

It’s no wonder that the newest generation of workers—the oldest of whom are 27 years old—feel threatened.

Separate research from the student essay writing website EduBirdie found that 3 in 5 Gen Zers are worried that they’ll be out of a job thanks to AI within the decade—and 10% think that could even happen as soon as this year.

However, seasoned workers who have weathered past workplace disruptions, know that ultimately, things will turn out fine—whether or not their job is listed as most at risk of being nabbed by AI.

“They understand that with these large technological transformations, change is going to happen, but that while those changes might lead to a shuffling of jobs or different job descriptions, they can adapt,” Calhoon adds. “Younger workers just haven’t been through this before—it’s new and it’s uncertain, so it’s a little bit scary.” 

Remember: Computers were once scary

Just like the AI frenzy we are witnessing right now, workers of a certain age may remember the palpable fear when computers first burst on the scene in the 1980s.

“These can take such forms as fear of physically touching the computer or of damaging it and what’s inside it, a reluctance to read or talk about computers, feeling threatened by those who do know something about them, feeling that you can be replaced by a machine, become a slave to it, or feeling aggressive towards computers,” the 1996 book Women and Computers detailed.

Today, these concerns seem quite irrational—and it’s a good reminder that our worst fears about technology have seldom materialized.

Since the explosion of the PC (and then the internet, the Cloud, social media and so on) most professions have undergone a digital rebrand.

Copywriters now use a laptop instead of a typewriter; designers rely on Adobe Photoshop instead of a pen and paper; and a plethora of IT roles were created along the way. 

This same principle can be applied to AI.

Despite predicting that “repetitive, white-collar jobs” will be the first to go thanks to AI, and putting a pause on hiring any replaceable roles, even IBM CEO Arvind Krishna says that the technology will create far more jobs than it eliminates.

“People mistake productivity with job displacement,” he said at the Fortune CEO Initiative conference. “In 1995, no one thought there would be 5 million web designers—there are.” 

Instead of fearing ChatGPT and its brethren, young new workers would be better off getting to grips with large language models because if history shows anything, it’s that one day people will be unable to imagine their job without it.

“The best thing you can do is get hands-on with this technology and start to understand how it can be useful and applied to your life,” Calhoon says.

“Really start to play with the technology and see are there ways where it can make you more effective, more efficient at your job?”

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