As artificial intelligence technology becomes more advanced and common, some might be concerned that it might replace us at work. At an MIT conference on the subject this week, scientists and leaders of some of the world’s top tech companies say while A.I. isn’t likely to put you out of a job, it may change the nature of what work means.

At the conference, titled “A.I. and the Future of Work,” MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson reminded attendees that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen things change quickly. The greatest change in technology, he said, came at the beginning of the 20th century.

“The technology that really triggered the industrial revolution was all about augmenting our muscles," he said. "The steam engine, later the electric dynamo, the internal combustion engine. They basically brought more and more power to us to be able to shift around the physical world.”

Today, he said, we’re in the early stages of another transformation. “We're using technologies to augment not just our muscles but our brains, allowing us to control the world and make them figure things out more effectively.”

And of course, just as robots in factories have driven many workers to unemployment lines, Krystyn Van Vliet of MIT points out some are concerned A.I. could lead to all kinds of other jobs becoming obsolete.

“That may be the case and certain tasks," Van Vliet said. "But there are many, many tasks that it will not be the case for."

Earlier in the conference, she said, she spoke with a radiologist who's developing A.I work at Massachusetts General Hospital.

"[He] said this would absolutely not lead to fewer radiologists in the foreseeable future of his lifetime because what is now being able to be done by computers gives the doctors now actually time to consult with each other and consult with their patients, which they currently don't have the time to do.”

Moshe Vardi of Rice University pushed back a bit on that idea, saying more efficiency — in a medical setting or in a school — doesn’t necessarily mean more quality time together, since everyone’s under pressure. “How many patients do you see per hour? How many students are you, are you handling?” he said.

Automation, Vardi said, is an enabler. We can decide that by automating the grading exams, it enables teachers to have more teaching time with students. “Or, we could decide that we need fewer teachers and full physical therapies. That's our choice. It's not technology. That's on us,” he said.

Among the industry leaders at the conference was Allen Blue, the co-founder of LinkedIn. He said in Denver, medical coders are in high demand — a job he said is likely to become automated. “What do we do when we have a system which basically says, ‘hey, you can go get trained as a medical coder, because there’s lots of demand for it, but in three years that job may not exist?’”

Blue said he’s not sure what the answer is.

“What we do know is that one of the major things which is going to be part of it is lifelong education. You’re going to have to re-skill over and over again, in order to be able to keep up with changes as you go,” he said. He added that LinkedIn would like bring jobs and education together in one place, so people see a job they’re interested in, along with a training program to prepare them for it.

It should be no surprise that one company developing artificial intelligence tools is Alphabet – the company formally known by its biggest business: Google. The company’s CEO Eric Schmidt told the crowd at the MIT conference that as A.I. becomes a bigger part of our work lives, the 40-hour work week will become a thing of the past.

“So one argument is that as people become more productive through automation, they will work fewer hours for same or greater income and be happier," Schmidt said. "The limit to me to that argument ... I think this is missed by most economists, is that for most people work is identity, and identity is very important. So in order for the workweek to materially decline as a percentage of people's life, they're going to have to have things aside from internet surfing and playing with video games," he said. "How do I make the world a better place? How do I serve others?”

It's a question we may all have to think about, as computers start doing even more of the thinking for us, and we find ourselves with time on our hands.