Perhaps you have been thinking – will the robots take my job?

Or, if you’re more dramatically inclined…

“Will the machines be our minions in the future of work, or will we be theirs?”

Okay, so perhaps that’s succumbing to the hype, but these are important questions to explore. First, let’s get some clarity about what all this machine ‘intelligence’ really means…


The impact of technology – Artificial Intelligence

If there’s one inescapable trend sweeping through the world of work today, it’s Artificial Intelligence (AI).

But with everything and its dog claiming to be ‘AI-powered’ these days, what does it really mean? The term ‘AI’ is so all-encompassing and its applications so broad that it’s really not very helpful.

AI, at its core, is all about making computers imitate intelligent behaviour. When you think about it that way, nearly every piece of software could stake a claim to AI, but we recognize intelligent behaviour when it imitates human capabilities like reasoning, perception, problem solving and learning.

As technology becomes more intelligent and capable, it inevitably takes time-consuming tasks off our hands.

Although advances in technology create more jobs than they destroy, we can be sure that in time, every job will undergo significant change.


Levels of Automation

Broadly speaking, there are two levels of automation at play:

  • Assisted intelligence – machines help us perform a task, e.g. GPS helps us navigate to our destination when we’re driving our car.
  • Autonomous intelligence – machines take a task entirely off our hands, e.g. driverless cars

In every organization today, some of the stuff that needs to be done gets done by humans; and some gets done by machines.

There are two major reasons why we’re freaking out about the future of work:

  • The amount of stuff that needs to be done is always increasing
  • The stuff that needs to be done is always changing and getting trickier

We have to keep getting more tricky stuff done because our expectations – as consumers, citizens and workers – keep rising.

New knowledge and technology keep on giving us new capabilities. And we want it all. Like, yesterday.

Luckily, as machines get smarter, they can do more stuff to help us out.

So at some point we may be able to put our feet up and watch cat videos all day on YouTube, supported by Universal Basic Income.

Or maybe not.

Working together

As technology takes repetitive tasks off our hands, we’re freed up to do more of the stuff that humans are way better at than machines. Including work that we didn’t even know needed to be done.

As machines keep getting smarter, they’ll keep taking on more of the tasks that they excel at.

So we humans have to keep getting smarter too, seeing as we’re left with all that tricky, cognitive, creative stuff.

That’s why it’s essential that we create learning organizations. Every individual, team and company needs to focus not only on bringing in technical talent to make these changes happen; but also on nurturing our uniquely human skillsets.

Whether you’re technical or not, in order to prepare for jobs that don’t exist yet, that’ll solve problems that haven’t even happened yet, we must commit to lifelong learning.

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn” – Alvin Toffler

In a world where it’s impossible to protect jobs, continuous up-skilling can protect people. Over time, our bundle of skills and capabilities will become more important than a defined role or profession; and the perceived value of human skills – like emotional intelligence, storytelling aptitude, creativity, critical thinking and empathy – will rise.

Download eBook: The Future of Work

Your definitive guide to the future of work. Looking beyond the hype to what you really need to know (and do). Topics include machine learning, smart buildings, automation and more!