Here's why coding skills alone won't save you from job automation.
The conventional wisdom developing in the face of job automation is to skill up: learn how to code, become a member of the rising tech economy. Venture capitalist Scott Hartley, however, thinks that may be counterproductive. "Just because you have rote technical ability, you may actually be more susceptible to job automation than someone who has flexible thinking skills," he says. Retraining yourself in tech-based areas is smart, but the smartest way to survive job automation is to develop your soft skills—like improvisation, relational intelligence, and critical thinking. Believe it or not, those 'softer' assets will rule in the digital age, so play to what makes you human. In time, everything else will be done by a robot. Scott Hartley is the author of The Fuzzy and the Techie: Why the Liberal Arts Will Rule the Digital World.
A.I. will bring a series of social and financial changes, and it will force us to confront a problem we've been avoiding for much too long, says Joscha Bach.
To know whether or not we should fear A.I., we first have to understand how it will behave in the world. Cognitive scientist Joscha Bach believes A.I. has the potential to mistreat humans—but no worse than big corporations already do. The future won't filled with Roombas and anthropomorphized house-help robots, he says, so a physical threat is not the main concern. A.I. will take the form of intelligent systems that operate as corporations, and they will adopt the ethics of whatever company builds them. "If we want to have these systems built in such a way that they treat us nicely you have to start right now. And it seems to be a very hard problem to do so," Bach says. And yet he appears to be optimistic about society's other main A.I. fear: job automation. He frames it like this: if a job is you selling the best years of your life to a corporation, automating as many manual tasks as possible is really a release from that contract—but how will we afford to live, and what will we do with our days? Many think Universal Basic Income, but Bach sees it a little differently: mass public employment. Pay people to be good humans: good at teaching and at raising their children. Pay them to be good scientists, good philosophers, good architects and chefs — the things that make us most human. Job automation will also force us to confront one of our most difficult and uncomfortable problems: that we are living in an age of abundance, but fail to distribute resources so that everyone can live a decent life. "It might turn out to be a very good thing if you are forced... to address this problem," he says. Joscha Bach's latest book is Principles of Synthetic Intelligence.
The most make-or-break aspect of job automation? How policy makers handle your transition into a new career.
So, what will your second career be? There's no playing coy with it anymore: intelligent machines are coming for our jobs, but rather than let this be a point of fear and the start of even greater class division, Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton Angela Zutavern hopes that human leaders, in politics and in corporations, with be proactive in the face of job automation by re-training displaced workers with new skills that will be highly valued in the AI landscape. She's not just talking about manual laborers, either; job automation will not discriminate on the color of your collar, and doctors and lawyers will be hit just like truck drivers and rote-task professionals. The upside is that machine intelligence will spawn new industries we haven’t even thought of yet, so while it's true you may lose your job, you'll already have teed up a new one—provided we develop appropriate policy sooner rather than later, warns Zutavern. If we do this right, machine learning won’t replace humans, it will augment us, leaving our talents to be put to better use in creative and reasoning tasks, which is where we are yet to be beaten. Angela Zutavern and Josh Sullivan are the authors of The Mathematical Corporation: Where Machine Intelligence and Human Ingenuity Achieve the Impossible.
Everything is cheap and nobody has jobs. Welcome to the future. President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas fills us in on how we got here.
The US economy has spawned a vicious cycle that few people are talking about, but it's one that affects us all. You, right now, are likely caught in that ugly loop. In fact, it's what may one day send you packing from your job. It's called technology-enabled disruption. And the worst part? (There's a worse part!?) You contributed to it in a big way, explains Robert S. Kaplan. Advancements in retail technology gave consumers the power to shop smarter and put pricing pressure on manufacturers. That pressure is "rippling back, through impacts on workers and their wages, and maybe encouraging businesses to increasingly replace workers with technology," says Kaplan. In a nutshell: every time a consumer finds a bargain, a robot gets a job.
But tech-enabled disruption isn't prominently on the public agenda. Currently a multitude of loud voices are blaming globalization for America's waning job market but, as Kaplan explains, it seems to be a case of misdiagnosis. It is crucial to identify the correct cause of the coming job market crash because if the problem is globalization, policy makers will take one set of actions (like withdrawing from trade deals). However, if it's technology-enabled disruption, that calls for an entirely different set of actions. The danger of this is most easily understood through US-Mexico trade, which Kaplan argues does not milk jobs from the US, but rather creates jobs, keeps US businesses competitive, and actually grows US GDP. It's time to re-think America's plan of action, and hopefully get the solution right the first time around. You can read Robert S. Kaplan's latest essay at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
Job automation will need to strike a delicate balance — we want enough to make our lives more comfortable, but no more than that.\r\n
There are two schools of thought about job automation: one rejects the idea as robots "stealing" human jobs, while the other cannot wait to put its feet up and tuck into some Proust — finally, free time for all those 3,000-page beasts of literature! The reality, as usual, is somewhere in between. An increasing number of professions will become automated, but Bill Nye believes there will always be a place for human ingenuity. We started building complex machines centuries ago because there are things we would rather be doing — like building new machines, refining mathematics, continuing our education, or exploring the universe. There are some jobs it would be better for robots to have: industrial welding, driving trains, packing warehouse orders, admin — why not make our lives less strenuous? "We want to automate the world to the extent that is comfortable, but no more," Nye says. Job automation is scary in the way that large-scale change usually is, but Nye thinks it will be a positive inflection point for humanity, enriching our existence with more debate, art, invention, sport, and discovery. Bill Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.