Freed up for new opportunities?
There are plenty of headlines predicting millions of jobs being destroyed by robots and artificial intelligence. Our experience with improving technology impacting jobs has, so far in human history, been a net positive, with new jobs emerging as fast as old ones are rendered obsolete.
“Historically, technological advances have not resulted in fewer jobs available to humans, but … led to the creation of new opportunities.”
Jes Staley, Barclays CEO
Nevertheless, it can be difficult to set aside an unsettling feeling when one considers how many jobs are in peril and how fast they could be eliminated. There’s no guarantee that there will be a one-to-one relationship between people displaced and new jobs that suit their talents.
When you are this big, they call you Mr. Data
“Mr. Data, you are a clever man.”
Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek The Next Generation
The rate at which we accumulate data is unprecedented. Storage is constantly getting cheaper. Processing power is increasing exponentially. This is water, soil and sun to machine learning.
“The whole Tesla fleet operates as a network. When one car learns something, they all learn it.”
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla
Hard or soft option
Machines can either replace your job completely – hard automation – or it can make your job easier – soft automation. While the latter option sounds a little more palatable, consider its impact on wages.
Cab drivers in London, England are required to demonstrate “The Knowledge”, a thorough knowledge of the city’s complicated and extensive streets. Then along comes Uber and the only navigation qualification is being able to operate an app on a phone. This may not immediately lower the number of people who drive for hire, but it does massively expand the pool of qualified potential applicants, driving down wages.
Make the machines work for you
The downside of automation is clear when it threatens your job. There are exciting possibilities as well.
When preparing for or pursuing your next role, consider the following question. Will I be working for machines, or will machines be working for me?
If, for example, your primary job function is to drag bar codes in front of a scanner, then you are working for a machine. However, if you are inventing a new product or service and harnessing available technology to provide it, the machines are working for you.
If you have the machines working for you, you have the capacity to produce a product or service of unprecedented value at a reasonable price. You also have money in your pocket to spend on some other innovator’s product or service.
Machines work for free
If you aren’t innovating, you are doing the same thing over and over. You know who does that? Machines. Machines will do that job all day long for free.
Don’t compete with a machine. Innovate.
We owe it to ourselves and our children to prioritize learning innovation skills. This is my mission for this website – to learn and share the techniques of innovation.