If You Want To Avoid Being Replaced By A Robot, Here's What You Need To Know

Mar 7 2014, 11:02pm CST | by

If You Want To Avoid Being Replaced By A Robot, Here's What You Need To Know
Photo Credit: Forbes Auto

Ever since 1962, when the first industrial robot was installed on an assembly line at a General Motors plant in New Jersey, machines have been replacing human workers.  In the decades that came after, just about every industry became automated to a greater or lesser extent.

For the most part, we humans have adapted nicely.  Robots could do only simple tasks, so by upgrading skills through training and education, our living standards continued to rise.  Yet more recently, that’s begun to change.

As Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson point out in their new book, The Second Machine Age, machines are beginning to take over cognitive tasks and now algorithms are even doing the work of highly skilled professionals like doctors, lawyers and creative people.  If you want to avoid being replaced by a robot these days, you better learn the right kind of skills.

Going Beyond The Same Old Routine

In the age of industrial robots, the question of who would lose out was fairly simple.  It was mostly physical labor that was getting replaced, so if you were a manual laborer working in a factory, you were at risk.  If you were working in an office doing cognitive tasks, you could assume that you were reasonably safe.

Yet as MIT’s David Autor points out in a rigorous analysis of the polarization of the US labor market, the division is no longer between manual and cognitive tasks as much as it is between routine and non-routine work.  So clerical workers, such as bookkeepers and travel agents have suffered, but financial analysts and wedding planners have done well.

In fact, I heard something similar from Lynda Chin at MD Anderson when I talked to her work about her hospital’s work with IBM’s Watson program to develop an Oncology Expert Advisor.  She said that while most doctors work on routine cases, there was a great need for expert advice when something rare came up.

Another way to look at it is that humans are not being paid for their work anymore as much as they are being paid to solve problems.  So if you’re a travel agent, you can forget about being paid to book flights, you better learn how to plan the one-of-a-kind vacation that your clients always dreamed of.  Better yet, learn how to suggest one they never thought of.

Learning To Ask Questions Instead Of Give Answers

It used to be that the smartest guy in the room was the one who had all the answers.  Knowing a lot of information was what got you good grades on tests, gave you access to top universities and propelled you into a lucrative career.  Yet even a genius from 20 years ago can’t match a normal teenager today armed with a smartphone.

In truth, humans are pretty lousy information processors.  We have fairly low capacity, error-prone memories and absolutely horrific abilities in calculation.  Computers, however excel at those things.

However, as McAfee and Brynjofsson point out in their book—and I think this is one of their most salient points—computers are still very poor at asking insightful questions.  In other words, they solve the problems we tell them to, but aren’t very good at deciding which problems to pursue.

It’s no longer that important what you know, but identifying what you don’t know that could be important is becoming an essential skill.

Improving Your Social Skills

When someone asks you how you’re doing, it’s considered a pleasantry.  When a computer does it, it’s considerably less charming.  That’s because we know a computer doesn’t really care.  Getting to know us does nothing to add to a machine’s existence, but human contact is something we crave and, in fact, need.

Richard Florida points out in an insightful article that, as many jobs are becoming automated, social skills are becoming increasingly important—and marketable.  Autor’s labor report also bears this out, showing that personal services has been the fastest growing job category over the last decade.

When I was growing up, yoga instructors, personal trainers and personal shoppers were rare, but now it seems like everyone has them.  The development of instructional videos, e-commerce and, more recently, wearable devices can’t replace the human touch./>/>

Unfortunately, due to the legacy of treating professionals as information processors, many jobs that emphasize social skills are poorly paid.  Yet, Zeynep Ton’s new book, The Good Jobs Strategy, shows that even in retail, firms that invest in higher salaries and better training tend to outperform ones that don’t.

The New Economy of Intent

The future is always uncertain and even McAfee and Brynjolfsson don’t pretend to have all the answers.  Yet a few things are already very clear.  The first is that things will move much, much faster than they used to and we’ll have less time to react to changes.  We must learn to prepare, rather than plan for the future.

The second is that our value will be determined not by how much we know or even how hard we work, but how well we collaborate with machines and with each other.  We will need to focus on the things that machines can’t do well, such as understanding other people’s needs and desires and imagining how we can change things for the better.

That’s the ironic thing about the new age of machines.  By automating tasks, we are liberating human imagination and the human spirit.  The more we unlock the secrets of technology, the more we find ourselves.

 
 
 />/>

RoMeLa's Robots

Source: Forbes Auto

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Where to Find Black Friday Car Deals
Where to Find Black Friday Car Deals
Black Friday 2014 Car sales kick off today at car dealership. Here are the hottest Car Black Friday sales and deals to look for.
 
 
The Black Friday 2014 Sales You can Shop Today 11/26
The Black Friday 2014 Sales You can Shop Today 11/26
Over 20 Black Friday 2014 sales are already launched. Get the deals early to get your head free for the hard to get Black Friday deals to be released on Thanksgiving Day.
 
 
IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
Our sister site I4U News is giving away a brand new iPad Air or if you can wait an iPad Air 2. This is an $499 value.
 
 
Your Parent Or Kid Moved In: Are You Covered?
A record 57 million Americans now live in multigenerational family households — double the number in 1980, according to a new Pew Research Center study. And I bet many of them have the wrong homeowner’s or renters...
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Abigail Breslin slams ex Michael Clifford
Abigail Breslin has slammed her ex, Michael Clifford. The 'My Sister's Keeper' actress went on a date with the 5 Seconds of Summer guitarist last year but it seems as though it didn't end well after she released a song...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Kevin Bacon to sizzle in Jungle
Kevin Bacon is to star in 'Jungle'. The 56-year-old actor will appear in the survival drama, which is based on the true story of Yossi Ghinsberg, an adventurer who found himself lost in the Amazon rainforest for three...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
Mickey Rourke to return to boxing at 62
Mickey Rourke will return to boxing aged 62. The actor will come out of retirement and step into the ring tonight (11.28.14) for the first time in 20 years as he competes against 29-year-old Elliot Seymour. He said: ''...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Kristen Stewart: Actors are isolated
Kristen Stewart claims actors become ''isolated'' because of their fame. The 24-year-old actress has become one of the biggest movie stars in the world following her portrayal of Bella Swan in the 'Twilight' franchise...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Burt Reynolds to sell memorabilia
Burt Reynolds is selling over 600 personal items to stave off bankruptcy. The 78-year-old Hollywood star is reportedly struggling financially so will see awards, cars and costumes go under the hammer in Las Vegas next...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Eddie Redmayne's fear of failure
Eddie Redmayne has a fear of failure. The 'Theory of Everything' star has admitted that like fellow actor, Rachel Weisz, he worries about ever getting hired again. He said: ''I was reading an interview with Rachel Weisz...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Where to Find Black Friday Car Deals
The Black Friday Car Sales events have gained traction over the past couple of years. This year several major brands ran nation-wide commercials announcing their Car Black Friday deals. In the beginning it was creative...
Read more on Auto Balla
 
Indian Aces win inaugural IPTL tie
Manila, Nov 28 (IANS) The much-awaited inaugural International Premier Tennis League (IPTL) got off to a flying start with the Indian Aces notching an impressive 26-16 first victory against the Singapore Slammers at...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Australian navy's largest ship commissioned
Canberra, Nov 28 (IANS) HMAS Canberra, a 27,000-tonne landing helicopter dock (LHD), was commissioned Friday, providing the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) with one of the world's most capable and sophisticated amphibious...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Sindhu, Prannoy enter Macau Open semis
Macau, Nov 28 (IANS) Indian shuttlers P.V. Sindhu and H.S. Prannoy came out with contrasting wins to enter their respective semi-finals at the $120,000 Macau Open Grand Prix Gold here Friday. While defending champion...
Read more on Sport Balla