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Will your job be extinct in 50 years? WIRED magazine thinks so. Its 2012 cover story (“The Robot Takeover”) predicts that by the end of this century, over 70% of existing jobs will be automated—to include most traditionally “white collar” professions. Journalism, education, law, medicine—all of these are fields that are already experiencing the birth pangs of a “second wave” of automation. How worried should we be?
Don’t panic. To a farmer in the 1800s, most of today’s jobs would seem unimaginably futuristic. Over the next 50 years, we can expect a lot of changes in the workforce…but there is plenty that we can do to prepare ourselves.
1. Embrace Uncertainty.
Automation can’t occur until a process has been defined, refined, and hard-coded. In other words, robots can only do what humans learn to do first. While we can expect that machines will obtain intelligence, that intelligence will be limited to solving problems around established laws, algorithms, and principles. For the foreseeable future anyway, humans are best at navigating new waters. We are explorers by nature.
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This is why I believe project management should be a skill listed on everyone’s resume. Projects, by definition, are endeavors into the unknown. Operations (the opposite of projects) is about defining and refining essential processes. The end-game of a project to innovate something new—literally to “produce a unique product, service, or result.”
2. Embrace Automation.
As new machines or software enters your industry, embrace it. For you HR folks, think about the first time you encountered Applicant Tracking Software. Here was a system that was able to cull through thousands of resume to filter out the most qualified applicants, all the while communicating to each one about their application status. How many of you were worried that your job was in danger?
Hopefully, none of you—because as automation took over your defined processes, you were able to focus on other important functions previously neglected: for example, building company cultures conducive to risk and innovation.
3. Embrace People.
We may one day live in a world where Androids resemble humans in every respect…but for now, the one thing that machines can’t replicate is empathy. Just try calling an automated customer service number, and you’ll see what I mean. People need to connect with people. Soft skills are fast overtaking technical skills as “must haves” in every industry and profession. Start treating coworkers like customers, and you’ll establish unique value that can’t be matched by anyone (or anything) else
How do you think future technology will change your workplace and job requirements?