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Latest Thoughts on Automation

Automation and Job Prospects - Quotes from John Hagel at Deloitte

“We are approaching the time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task,” Moshe Vardi, a computer science professor at Rice University in Texas, has said. Venture Beat, “A Candid Take on the Future of AI and Job Automation”, Fred Stevens-Smith, 1/20/2018.

Some time ago, there had been a spate of articles about McKinsey Global Institute’s findings that by 2030, about 375 million people (or 73 million or 800 million – this number changes, I’m picking the most commonly quoted figure) will need to upgrade their skills due to job automation. And all of those articles had some kind of advice of what to do in the face of such transition.

Here are the links to the articles:

Business Insider: 7 Things Your Kids Should Learn to Get a High Paying Robot Proof Job

Monster: Work Skills for 2018

Thomas Friedman: While You Were Sleeping (a good discussion on quantum computers, the next wave of invention)

Venture Beat: A Candid Take on the Future of AI

Silicon Republic: When Exactly Is the Future of Work (a very good article - seems to make the most sense to me)

Business Insider List

  1. Coding
  2. Data analytics
  3. Math
  4. Humanities or liberal arts
  5. Science
  6. Finance
  7. Communications

Invariably, the outlook for 2018 includes anything to do with data analytics, math, science and code, or the STEM industries plus some soft skills such as problem solving, empathy, creativity, learning and communications. Business Insider lists some of the more typical skillsets that is expected to be needed for the next few years. Monster lists more generic skillsets that might enable you to weather a couple of economic transitions as they are broader and not tied down to a specific industry or technology.

Monster List

  1. Problem Solving
  2. Data analytics
  3. Social Media Literacy
  4. Creativity
  5. Resiliency
  6. Good Business Sense
  7. Willingness to Learn

But I would say Monster’s list of skillsets will last longer than Business Insider’s list as I suspect that data analytics, math and coding will be overtaken by AI. Anything that involves logic, numbers and a closed systems (as opposed to open ended possibilities) will eventually be supplanted by AI. That doesn’t mean we don’t study the subjects; it just means those subjects won’t be the source for making a living. We will need to learn math, data analytics and coding so that we understand technology and know how best to put it to our use.

“Artificial intelligence... is the opportunity of our time, and skills are the issue of our time. Some jobs will be displaced, but 100 percent of jobs will be augmented by A.I.,” added (IBM CEO Ginni) Rometty. Technology companies “are inventing these technologies, so we have the responsibility to help people adapt to it — and I don’t mean just giving them tablets or P.C.s, but lifelong learning systems.” New York Times, “While You Were Sleeping”, Thomas Friedman, 1/16/2018.”

But it’s not going to be just AI that will be driving this transition: it is speculated that within 10 years quantum computers will come into full flower and really speed up things. In the face of this coming juggernaut, it is suggested by Thomas Friedman, Ginni Rometty, and Heather McGowan, an education to work expert, that as adults, we need to learn how to do continuous learning.

 

Each time work gets outsourced or tasks get handed off to a machine, “we must reach up and learn a new skill or in some ways expand our capabilities as humans in order to fully realize our collaborative potential,” McGowan said.

Therefore, education needs to shift “from education as a content transfer to learning as a continuous process where the focused outcome is the ability to learn and adapt with agency as opposed to the transactional action of acquiring a set skill,” said McGowan. New York Times, “While You Were Sleeping”, Thomas Friedman, 1/16/2018.

Here’s another take on education:

Our education system will also need to evolve. Today, schools churn out graduates optimized for the type of rote, administrative work computers are already more adept at handling. Few children are encouraged to pursue creative, interdisciplinary subjects or develop empathy and interpersonal skills, yet those are the attributes we will most need in order to augment computerized decision-making. Ironically, when I look around at other leaders in Silicon Valley, those skills are massively over-represented among my peers. Venture Beat, “A Candid Take on the Future of AI and Job Automation”, Fred Stevens-Smith, 1/20/2018.

When looking at strategy further out in the future, the Monster list of skills become more dominant, requiring continuous learning, creativity and imagination, and people skills. Anyone with an administrative or bureaucratic role, or is working with software, as opposed to designing or developing software, will be impacted: for example, accounting, finance, marketing, and office management. What will be left are the developers, designers and creatives building and programming the software as well as those who will set the company vision.

But it is not going to be just the low or mid skilled who will be impacted. Some highly skilled workers are in the cross hairs, especially those who jobs are structured around logic, math, data and analysis.

John Hagel III works for Deloitte’s Research Center and his thinking appears to go in the same direction as mine (or rather my thinking is going in his direction). He says that for the future, instead of focusng on skills, such as knowing how to use a particular machine or software, we will need to focus on capabilities.

"He also believes it is more likely that the highly skilled workers will be affected."

“Some of the highest-skilled jobs are actually going to be some of the earliest to be automated,” he said. “A PhD is less and less of a safety net in terms of job security.”

Looking a little more closely at the possible automation of jobs, Hagel said anything that involves significant work with data and analytics is in danger. “The machines are becoming more and more adept at doing that.” John Hagel III in Silicon Republic, “When Exactly Is the Future”, Jenny Darmody, 10/11/2017.

Here are John Hagel's thoughts on what capabilities we need to build:

“The alternatives to these so-called hard skills are capabilities. These are things such as curiosity, creativity and imagination. These are the kind of soft skills that help people to come up with new ideas and approaches to identify new opportunities. More importantly, these are the skills that are nigh on impossible to automate.

“Those are going to be much more sustainable and are much more uniquely human than skills that can be automated and replaced by a machine,” he said. Silicon Republic, “When Exactly Is the Future”, Jenny Darmody, 10/11/2017.

His advice is:

“My advice to anyone today is first of all, find a passion. Find something you’re really, really passionate about, and don’t stop until you find it,” he said. “Once you find it, find a way to make a living out of it because that’s the only way you’re going to thrive in this new world. 

“If you’re not driven to learn faster and be more creative and have higher impact in whatever your area is, you’re going to be in trouble.” Ibid.

When looking at strategy further out in the future, the Monster list of skills becomes more dominant, requiring continuous learning, creativity and imagination, and people skills. Anyone with an administrative or bureaucratic role, or is working with software, as opposed to designing or developing software, will be impacted: for example, accounting, finance, marketing, and office management. What will be left are the developers, designers and creatives building and programming the software as well as those who will set the company vision.

But it is not going to be just the low or mid skilled who will be impacted. Some highly skilled workers are in the cross hairs, especially those who jobs are structured around logic, math, data and analysis.

… He also said that the education system is very far away from catching up to what the future of work really needs. “They’re building more programming classes and more computer technology classes earlier in the curriculum but, to me, that’s not the answer.”

Once again, it seems the answer lies in developing the soft skills of creativity and curiosity. Silicon Republic, Ibid.

“The average worker needs to realize that no matter what credentials they have, no matter what skill they have, it’s less and less relevant, and what really matters is how quickly they’re learning and developing themselves,” Hagel said.

“The more you have a sense of getting better faster, the more likely you are to continue to be able to be gainfully employed.” Silicon Republic, Ibid.

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