Authors Neil Sahota and Michael Ashley provide a future-forward look at A.I. and deliver the knowledge you need to navigate it all in real and practical ways.
Robots are coming for your job! Artificial intelligence will make you obsolete. Dire warnings such as these, buttressed by reports of looming automation dangers, has led to panic among the workforce. In January, the phrase, “Learn to code” went viral, mocking journalists laid off from BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post. It has since been applied to multiple industries, including blue-collar sectors, as snarky advice to stay employable. But according to entrepreneur and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, even this type of retraining won’t be enough; one day soon robots will take our coding jobs, too. So much for all the fearmongering. We’re here to tell you the most employable people in the future will be those who act like … well, people.
“You’ve probably heard of the STEM curriculum,” says Stephen Ibaraki, an IT analyst and philanthropist who contributed the foreword to our new book, Own the A.I. Revolution: Unlock Your Artificial Intelligence Strategy to Disrupt Your Competition. “This stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. These are supposed to be hot fields for young people eying the future. But there is one area where A.I. is going to be very slow to surpass human intelligence: The Arts. That’s why we now talk about STEAM.”
Ibaraki’s point isn’t that today’s young people or its extant labor force must suddenly learn to sing and dance. Instead, he suggests the importance of developing “soft skills” to thrive in a future in which robots can do tedious work once reserved for mankind. “We should be emphasizing problem-solving, leadership, creativity, collaboration, and, of course deploying emotional intelligence,” he says.
Ibaraki, and other experts profiled in our book, are disrupting conventional wisdom as to which skills will be valuable in coming years. To understand their thoughts, it’s helpful to understand how schools have traditionally prepared students. “We created an assembly-line system meant to churn out assembly-line workers,” explains law professor Glenn Reynolds in his book, The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself. “The bell rings, you move to where the schedule puts you, the bell rings again, you do as you’re told. Everyone gets processed in the same way, and at the end of the line you emerge with a certificate of quality.”
The teaching model Reynolds describes sounds much like how we expect robots to function. Automatons, while adept at taking orders, are not valued for their critical thinking abilities. Still, they are highly effective for today’s businesses. Already, there are many robots capable of doing repetitive tasks, from stocking warehouses to dispensing prescriptions. And as our technology advances, there will be even more A.I.s capable of completing such functions.
So, what can’t robots do? They cannot think. They cannot feel, dream, or imagine. And there are many theorists who suggest they never will. If we really want to ready ourselves and our culture for the new economic reality, we must recognize this surprising truth: Unlike during the previous era, the coming automation age will prize human attributes like never before. As our book attests, rather than being a zero-sum scourge upon the workforce, the rise of A.I. promises to tilt the nature of work in wonderfully positive, unprecedented ways.
To see this idea in action, let’s turn our attention to popular culture. Right before the new millennium, the comedy Office Space satirized the boring nature of work in the modern era, depicting workers more akin to robots than to people. Now, more than 20 years later, we’re at the dawn of a new vocational reality. Today’s workforce stands to benefit not by taking orders or fulfilling rote tasks, but by doing what makes us uniquely human. Or as New York Times bestseller Steven Kotler, another interviewee from our book, explains, “My organization, the Flow Genome project, recently participated in Red Bull’s Hacking Creativity project. Comprised of nearly 30,000 studies and hundreds of interviews, it was the largest empirical study of human potential. One of the overarching conclusions reached is that creativity is the most important skill for thriving in the 21st century.”
Bottom line: fearful about the A.I. revolution? Don’t be. In the future, your humanity will be your most valuable commodity.