WILL A MACHINE TAKE YOUR JOB?
In my previous article, I made a big deal of investing in relevant skills before a student graduates. Over the course of students’ campus lives, they will be bombarded by lots of information on which specific industry relevant skills to equip themselves with. For an engineer it could be GIS, BIM, Computational Fluid Dynamics, MATLAB, and SOLIDWORKS – the America Society of Mechanical Engineers has already done this and more amazing articles explaining this.
This article however will tackle another sets of skills that are very important in surviving in this fast changing world. The 4th Industrial Revolution is on its heels and Artificial Intelligence is already replacing many mundane tasks including some technical ones. We already havemachine learning algorithms diagnosing cancerous maladies better than doctors, robots autonomously conducting repairs and maintenance in factories and even drones that capture construction sites automatically developing real time 3D models of the site. So what are these timeless skills that will not only set you apart and give you a competitive edge (on top of the technical ones) but also ensure that your role doesn’t become redundant in the next decade or so?
I observe two apparent characteristics that set these skills apart and allows them to be irreplaceable. Understanding these characteristics will help you identify other skills that are timeless and aren’t mentioned in this article.
- Machines will need these skills
Innovative machines and systems that threaten human labour may still require some sort of human input. These systems that are obtained from Artificial Intelligence algorithms will require human interaction for their programming or monitoring. As product developers, do we have the ability to progressively innovate and advance our skills in such a way that we always have control over machines? With a lot of research, study and industry engagement, we can be able to position ourselves to have an edge over machines.
- Machines can never have these skills
These are skills that even we humans struggle with because they are hardest to understand and structure. You could do a crash course on how to gain them but will need a lifetime’s worth of experience to master their art. Technology and machines will never be able to rightly accomplish tasks that require these skills because they involve understanding human emotions upholding of human dignity.
In our classes we have a very linear and convergent way of learning. We are taught theoretical concepts, perform experimental procedures and encouraged to practice through attempting as many examination questions as we can come across. I am no expert and I was not there when the curriculum was being crafted but we are all witnesses of all the thousands of engineering startups that are failing and not because we lack engineering concepts. These are skills that don’t necessarily stand out from our normal interactions with our lecturers.
If we are ever going to develop products or skillfully perform a task, we are going to do it with a fellow human being and for a fellow human being. So no matter how extremely good we are at the relevant skills in our fields, if we don’t apply them in a way that takes into account human emotions and upholding a person’s dignity, we will not only be working unethically but also be no match against the machine revolution that’s coming.
This article only looks at two of such skills but with more reading and research, you can be able to identify more skills that fall into this category.
- Design Thinking
Design thinking is a skill that explores a framework that anyone can use to solve challenges and innovatively come up with sustainable projects. In design thinking, various tools are used to strategically and logically solve problems, come up with sustainable solutions and create projects that go hand in hand with what a community needs.
Design thinking ensures products and services are human-centered to truly cater for people’s needs. This can only be possible through in-depth observations to uncover assets, insights and opportunities present in your field. Design thinking then ensures that (from the observations) the desires, trends and wants of a target audience are fully captured by studying their passions and what drives them. Then it also provides the tools necessary to experiment and prototype any ideas developed.
There are data analytic tools and machine learning algorithms that can predict trends and effectively analyze marketing data. However I believe there is no algorithm, analytic tool or robot that can be able to conduct real life observations, empathize with the target audience and inspire them to do a project that caters for THEIR needs. This is what makes design thinking a timeless skill.
In Tom Holland’s and Chris Pratt’s latest animation movie, ‘Onward’, a whole generation of magical beings with mystical powers ‘forget’ how to use their magic powers because of various innovations. It became a nuisance to harness the power of a magic wand for fire because of the discovery of the light switch and gas cookers. The animation correctly pictures the changes in desires and trends over different generations in the human race. The emergence of sophisticated phone cameras has completely changed Kodak’s business model. In addition to this, we are smirk in the middle of Baby Boomers, Millennials and Generation Z who all have different needs that require to be approached in different ways.
In our era of high risk, instability, globalization and new technologies, adaptability is key. It will require a great deal of creativity and innovation after serious market study from in-depth observations of your audience to determine when and how to adapt. Rigidity is engraved in our hearts and we are always prone to be comfortable with the status quo. Data analytics and AI are already proven to be exemplary at learning and adapting in order to optimize. So we need totrain ourselves to be adaptableby participating in hackathons or constantly challenging yourself to solve modern problems.
Which are the skills whose impact is felt most in the world? Just drawing observations from this corona pandemic period, do you notice the tasks and skills (outside healthcare) that are deemed essential? What are you doing with your career to gain these skills? Machines, robots and Artificial Intelligence aren’t coming to replace you, they are coming to augment what you can already accomplish, – if you are on the right side of history. The future of work is now, are you ready for what’s coming?