In January this year I had to go to the Leidschendam-Voorburg municipality, in The Netherlands, to register our marriage and my new surname. Instead of a receptionist, I was welcomed by a cute little robot, Evie, who asked me whether I have an appointment and showed me the way. And this is a small municipality with population of 74.947 people in 2018.
This experience was yet another vivid example for me of how we are losing more and more human interaction in services such as customer support. Or, think about self-scanners at the supermarkets and self check-in machines on airports.
There has been a lot of a discussion lately that the robots will one day take over our jobs. A study from Gartner Research states that 1.8 million jobs will be lost by 2020 and by 2022, one in five workers engaged in mostly non-routine tasks will rely on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to do a job.
These predictions are quite scary when you realize how our work life will change in the next two to four years. Highly repetitive and transactional jobs such as manufacturing, reporting, cashiers are at the highest risk. Statistics like thеsе are likely to make most of us anxious about our uncertain future:
What will our lives and work look like in a few years from now?
Will our skills and capabilities still be valuable and relevant?
Sometimes I wonder
Why bother that the robots will take over our jobs
when we have become robots ourselves?
Many organizations, especially the big corporations, are in a constant state of optimizing and introducing cost cutting initiatives that strive to achieve more with less people. As a result we often end up doing work for two or more full time employees, spending more than 8 hours a day at the office. And in some countries way more than 40 hours a week.
At work, we focus primarily on targets, profits, deadlines, efficiency. We are running to a meeting, rushing to complete tasks and meet a deadline, chasing and blaming each other for what we haven’t done but we rarely speak to each other about how we are actually doing.
So, when I hear that the robots will take over our jobs I personally see a brighter future for us as humans.
There will certainly be numerous challenges: economical, political, educational, psychological. Many people will indeed lose their jobs and will need to acquire a new set of skills and most importantly a mindset that what we do now will not necessarily be the same as what we will be doing at the end of our careers.
This future is slowly but surely becoming our present. And while research and media try to scare us about what lays ahead, the purpose of this article is to look at it from the bright side and to propose some ideas on how we can prepare for these challenges on a personal level.
There is a bright future for us as humans
According to the very same Gartner Research Artificial Intelligence will create more jobs in 2020 (2.3 million) than the amount of jobs that will be eliminated (1.8 million), and hereby AI will become a positive job motivator.
Cognizant Consulting, for example, has come up with 21 new jobs that will emerge over the next 10 years: from data detectives, to cyber city analysts, to augmented reality journey builders. (You might want to download the whole report, including a more detailed job description).
Meanwhile many companies and countries are already introducing shorter work weeks as pilots. If the new standard becomes to work less than 40 hours a week, we will have more time for pleasure and for our families. Who would complain about that?!
But most importantly, I see a positive future where AI takes on the repetitive and mundane tasks, letting us focus on what really matters — art and human interactions.
My assumption is that if we are constantly surrounded by robots and AI at work, we will be craving for human interactions in our free time. We will feel the need to be entertained. Hopefully, by the time this comes, we will be fed up with the current form of entertainment — social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook or Youtube, for example.
How about practicing arts or visiting theaters or ballet, for a change?
Professionals such as singers, dancers, actors, writers are the manifestation of human creativity and talent and yet over the years mainly the top performers in their field have managed to earn a decent living. I hope that live performances such as stand up comedy, concerts, theaters will become even more valuable and attractive than they are today because of the real human emotion and connection they facilitate.
A few companies will offer services provided solely by humans. Human interaction will be seen as a luxury experience which we will need to pay a premium price for.
In order to qualify for a job in such a company, you will need to be slimmer and faster than a robot and simultaneously possess the most emphatic and customer friendly personality of all suitable candidates.
It will be a sign of prestige and status to be a customer of a company that offers services provided solely by humans, because it will show your appreciation for human interactions and you will most probably be one of the few who will be able to afford it.
Another personal prediction of mine is that life and career coaches will become a necessity. When we lose our jobs and hope in the future we will need someone to talk to and help us see new opportunities for ourselves.
Although there will be many applications and online self-help centers, who wouldn’t like to feel the support of at least one other human being who trusts in your ability to reclaim your future by finding a new passion and purpose in life?
How can we prepare?
I don’t claim I can foresee the future and I realize that my wild guesses might come across as a bit idealistic. Nevertheless, I am simply sharing with you my way of looking at and dealing with the uncertain future.
We can neither predict what exactly will happen nor which actions we need to take today in order to ensure our prosperity in the future but one thing is certain — ignoring any thoughts about it and doing nothing will not bring you any further than where you are right now.
The first step that we can take is to dig deep inside our own world. Each and everyone of us possesses a unique set of skills — experience, talents, interests, network, memories, education, upbringing.
I believe that the key for staying relevant and valuable in the future is to explore your own unique universe and figure out how you can provide value in the future in a way that no one else can.
You can start by answering the following questions for yourself:
- What is it that makes you YOU? Or how can you make the best of the unique combination of your upbringing, education, network, talents and interests?
- What can you contribute to society that both you and the people around you can benefit from?
- What new opportunities do you see arising in your industry or area of expertise?
- What new skills and capabilities do you need to acquire in order to feel better prepared for an uncertain future?
Instead of holding on to what will certainly change, set up your mindset to a future that you can predict and influence by the actions you take today.
As I said, this is my way of preparing myself for the uncertain future. How about yours?