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But Not My Job

September 7, 2016

Robot works at keyboard.So here’s an interesting thing. It seems, according to a Pew Research Center Survey on Public Predictions for the Future of Workforce Automation, that YOUR job is going to be replaced by AI (Artificial Intelligence) within the next 50 years. However, MY job will be around. At least, according to the survey, that’s how people are thinking these days. I find that curious and dangerous.

Curious

Almost two-thirds of the folks surveyed expected that within fifty years robots and computers will do much of the work currently being done by humans. However, 80% of them believed that their own jobs would still exist in the current form in the next five decades. Now how can that be?

We humans have a remarkable brain. It keeps us from becoming too anxious by denying facts that even it “sees” as being there. How else can you explain such a conundrum? I guess we observe this phenomenon “all” the time—we see what we believe, not the other way around. It’s too painful to think that my own job will go away either for me or my child or grandchild. Solution? Just deny it.

Dangerous

What’s dangerous about this, to me, is that by denying the obvious, I will not train myself to work with the coming changes technology is forcing on all of us. Jobs and technology go hand in hand. We have to be comfortable working side-by-side with intelligent machines. Perhaps not anthropomorphic robots, but at least very intelligent machines.

Yet even as most Americans expect significant levels of workforce and job automation to occur over the next 50 years, most of today’s workers express confidence that their own jobs or occupations will not be impacted to a substantial degree.

In the future when I go to the doctor’s office my first interview may well be with an intelligent program that determines what my most likely ailment is through excellent questions, access to vast medical databases and incredibly smart algorithms. Then, in consultation with a human physician, it prescribes a course of action for me. How well prepared will physicians and nurse practitioners be if they deny that this change is coming? [Here’s a hint: how well prepared are we for the obvious climate change that is occurring right now? We’ve been talking about it for many, many years and have done very little. ]

What’s so? So what? Now what?

What’s so is that we will not be able to put the technology genie back in the bottle. There will be relentless “progress” affecting every part of human existence.

So what does that mean? Constant change in jobs, industries, ways of life and how humans interact with the world we are creating.

Now, what that means to me is continuous education, for everyone. We need to have our eyes open and our brains fully engaged in order to understand and prepare for the changes. There will not be time to accumulate 10,000 hours experience in order to become an expert or become proficient at tasks or jobs. The change is coming too fast now.

Leadership

As leaders, we will be called upon to guide ourselves, our organizations and our fellow humans to a new way of being in the world. The change is happening right now and the rate of change is accelerating. What are YOU doing to prepare. To press an old analogy into action, “Are  you putting your oxygen mask on first so that you can help others?” Great leaders do.

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