We can’t stop or slow down the progression of technology. Businesses and industry will always relentlessly search for ways to increase efficiency and productivity. In the future this will lead to the rise of more machines that can do what we do. In fact, according to an Oxford University study, 47 percent of all jobs could be automated. In the next decade, your job as it’s currently described might not even exist. Sound scary? What if I told you it’s a good thing?
The future of work continues to be a topic on the rise, with social mentions up 40 percent year over year, according to an analysis by Adobe. When we talk about a future where robots accomplish all the basic tasks in society, we fail to take into account that there are so many vital roles that robots won’t ever be able to fill. Here’s an idea: Instead of worrying about a skills revolution, embrace it. Learn how to turn your humanity into a marketable asset in tomorrow’s economy.
It’s great to be human.
I’m the futurist in residence at Arizona State University. As a self-described optimist, I’m a big fan of humankind. I see a more automated world as a place in which more people can embrace the creativity, curiosity and ingenuity that makes us distinctly human. Not only will leveraging your humanity provide job security in the future, it will also make the work you do more meaningful.
In the current job market, we don’t focus on humanity. We focus on productivity. We focus on increasing efficiency. We focus on speed. We focus on accuracy. These are all things that have essentially turned us into machines. So, it should make perfect sense that the machines will be able to rise up and take the majority of our jobs.
So what makes being human so great? Here’s the short list:
Communication. Humans are great at communicating with other humans. You could take two people who don’t speak the same language, who come from radically different cultures, and you can put them in a room and they will begin to communicate. Humans have an incredible ability to overcome barriers in order to work together to find solutions.
Creativity. We humans are good at taking disparate, unrelated pieces of information and turning them into new ideas. A machine can be programmed to find the correct answers, but it can’t come up with new questions, or design a new way to solve a problem.
Adaptability. No matter how the world changes, humans have proved they are able to change with it. When early humans were threatened by predators, they built weapons. When they were cold, they covered themselves and made clothing. When they couldn’t find enough food, they learned how to grow their own. The key to survival is not how strong or fast or how big you are -- it’s how easily and quickly you can adapt.
By focusing on these attributes, we not only learn to accept the inevitable increase in automation, but we also use the opportunity to engage in work more suited to our natures. Adobe found sentiment about automation is trending positively, with saving time (30 percent) and big data analysis (25 percent) as the top trending topics. When robots take over the mundane but necessary tasks of running a business, humans will have the freedom to further create and explore.
Prepare now for the future.
There are a few things both employees and employers can do now to be ready for change. Jeff Vijungco, vice president of global talent, technology and insights at Adobe, recommends envisioning what your future will look like 10 years down the road. Think about your dream career, and plan a path to get there. Think about the skills you will need to succeed in a world where rote tasks are handled by machines.
Consider that in the near future, job descriptions will become less rigid. Employers will begin looking for individuals who can take on a variety of roles. Human employees will not be expected to meet productivity and efficiency goals; employers will want their employees to take on more abstract assignments that will further the success of the company on a greater scale.
Some of the skills I suggest employees should start developing now include the ability to learn, the ability to be flexible and the ability to problem solve. These build on our natural human tendencies toward creativity and adaptability, and will let you turn your instincts into marketable skills.
One of the pieces of advice that I give to everybody from grade schoolers to board members of Fortune 500 companies is to always be curious. Always be asking why. We should allow ourselves to have a constant thirst for understanding.
Fostering your ability to communicate with others is another important step you can take to securing your future. Robots can’t collaborate. Humans can. If you can get along and work with a wide variety of different types of people, you are infinitely more deployable, and so more valuable to your employer. They can assign you to any team, doing any task, and they know you will be able to help build a cohesive and successful unit.
Employers, meanwhile, should focus on the future of their company. Many of the most successful businesses have departments dedicated to long-term planning. Think about the specific steps you will need to take to create a positive future for your company.
Employers also need to keep in mind that their employees are their most valuable asset. To encourage employees to embrace their humanity, reward that humanity. Reward them for being creativity. Encourage them to discover new solutions. Most importantly, treat them with respect. Acknowledge they have lives outside of work, and create policies that foster a healthy work-life balance. Machines don’t need validation to perform their tasks. Humans, on the other hand, can’t perform successfully if they feel overworked and underappreciated. Create an environment where employees want to succeed, and they will.
People build the future.
Robots may become more important in the future, but they cannot create the future. Only humans have the capacity to envision and build a better world.
I am an optimist. I believe that the future is built by people. The future is built by the actions of people. The future is built by corporations and companies. The future is built by organizations and communities and churches and schools and universities. People build the future.
When we allow machines to handle the more mundane tasks, we get the freedom to innovate. Embrace the progression of technology so your own creativity can become your greatest asset.