Most Jobs Will Be Replaced By Technology Soon, But Not This One
Technology has continuously disrupted jobs over the course of human history, especially during the last century. With each evolution, humans have found themselves in increasingly sophisticated roles. But today’s technological advances are poised to bring incredibly rapid change to the workforce on a scale we’ve never seen before.
Jobs thought to be permanently secure now seem capable of being replaced, or at least made redundant, in the next decade or two. We can see the early impact of automation in the workforce today. Accounting is now handled by software. Programming is becoming increasingly automated. Artificial intelligence systems like Siri and Alexa provide answers to our common questions. IBM’s Watson supercomputer is even able to diagnose medical issues.
We’ve only just begun our journey with AI, but we can already feel the threat it poses to many skilled labor jobs. Regardless of the ethical dilemmas surrounding AI, it’s certain to play a huge role in the future of work.
So if robots start to take over white collar jobs, where does that leave us? Is there any task left that requires a human touch?
There is, in fact. And it’s a job many people are doing right now—designing solutions to human problems.
Design requires both art and science, which sit on opposite ends of the innovation spectrum. On one end, you have innovation driven by technical science. On the other, you have innovation driven by human creativity and empathy. The more a role depends on the “art” part of the spectrum, the more it relies on human intuition over algorithms. And what could be more nuanced than observing humans, understanding their underlying motivations, and designing solutions around them?
Since the Industrial Age, technology has made life easier by taking automating repetitive tasks—things that follow a logical template, however complex that template might be.
But true art doesn’t follow a template. Therefore, design-driven jobs, which fall on the art end of the innovation spectrum, can’t be replaced by artificial intelligence—at least not in its current incarnation.
Look at any unicorn company out there today, and you’ll be able to identify the pivotal role of design in their success. Take, for instance, the rapidly changing dynamic of transportation. (I live in New York City, so this is particularly relevant for me.)
An AI system might look at the problem of personal transportation and decide that we simply need more taxis. That would solve the problem of waiting on the corner trying to flag one down.
A human designer, however, would tackle this problem by first asking, what are we really trying to achieve? The answer is, we want it to be easier to get from place to place and to minimize the time we spend doing it.
So instead of simply starting another taxi service, Uber decided to develop an app where users can press a button and order a crowdsourced car to their door within minutes. This solution required looking at the whole problem (transportation) as opposed to one piece of it (taxis).
Solving a problem like that means being able to get inside the heads of the people you’re solving problems for. This process requires a level of empathy, communication, and connection that AI can’t replicate.
The most creative solutions in the world today are a result of unique, innovative designs—something a computer algorithm, which relies on existing inputs, struggles to accomplish. Successful design requires the truly unique insight that comes from putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. While technology may get there one day, from the present perspective, it still seems a long way off.
So if you want a job that can’t be replaced, look for roles that are grounded in design, which requires empathy and human insight to solve problems. Only then will you be able to rest easy about your job security in the years ahead.
Simon Berg is co-founder and CEO at Ceros
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