Which segment of workers is likely to be most disrupted by the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) technology? Believe it or not, it isn’t necessarily blue-collar employees. Rather, it’s knowledge workers.
Knowledge workers may not be safe from the rise of automation and AI. But, there are some skills and job duties that will be mostly outside the range of capabilities of AI, at least for the foreseeable future. They include certain consumer/market research duties, collaborative projects, and briefing management/other team members
According to Andrew Ng, task types requiring information processing are the AI benchmark: if a human being can process that information in one second or less, it’s likely to become the province of AI. Yet while machine learning and data work will probably always be relegated to AI, that’s not the full story for the future of AI at work. Many tasks require skills that can only be performed (so far) with human cognition and input. Those skills are a good way to protect your work from a machine takeover.
Here are four categories of skills that you can develop and enhance to future-proof your job against AI.
1. Critical Thinking
Jobs requiring the application of critical thinking cannot be performed by AI efficiently or effectively. Trial and criminal defense attorneys, detectives, triage nurses and physicians (and other healthcare roles), as well as plumbers all utilize critical thinking to analyze, prioritize and diagnose, among other things. AI technology isn’t capable of replacing critical analysis in these and other professions.
Enhancing your ability to sort, categorize and draw fact-based conclusions about existing conditions will help enhance your value in an increasingly automated job market. To improve your critical thinking skills, try the following strategies:
- Develop a habit of questioning assumptions about your business and profession. Why are things done a certain way, instead of using a possibly more efficient method? Are the assumptions underlying your business decisions really accurate and fact-based?
- Improve your logic skills. Logic puzzles and games are a great way to brush up these skills, but for best results, apply those skills to real-world scenarios. Reason through complex business situations by evaluating known factors and their logical consequences.
- Practice seeking input from a diverse group of sources. Thanks to social media and search algorithms, as well as political divides, we all tend to live in increasingly isolated bubbles. Make an effort to get outside of yours and listen to the perspectives and experiences of others.
2. Empathy and Compassion-Based Skills
Skills that require emotional intelligence, empathy and compassion are not yet AI-ready, and may never be. Computers are making strides in this area. However, they’re still not great at accurate identification of and response to specific emotional responses in humans. Human interaction can be tough, after all. No machine is yet to acquire actual empathy and compassion.
And those aren’t just “soft skills” with no real, practical purpose. Counseling and skilled patient or customer communications in high-stress situations are frequently needed in a variety of positions, such as customer service, logistics, medicine, HR and more.
Empathy isn’t just something you either have or completely lack. It’s a set of skills that can be developed, just like logic, critical thinking and more. Start by examining your biases closely. Our inherent preferences and beliefs can impact empathy and compassion in ways we never recognize. Embrace the challenge of learning a new skill as a rank beginner. This helps remind you of the wisdom of humility and of seeing people as complete beings, not just a collection of skills and experiences.
Do you draw, design, or write? Any skill that involves creativity and the generation of new content or material of any kind is probably safe from AI for the time being. This is especially true for visual and performing artists, public relations specialists, graphic designers, as well as fiction writers. However, it also means that content officers and their teams, as well as any employee who’s responsible for generating creative ideas, will be more highly valued by employers and companies, even in the face of increasing automation.
Now is a perfect time to brush up your writing, video, photography and other creative know how. Explore one-on-one or group classes you can take through your local community college, civic groups or arts organizations. Explore the work of well-known artists in your discipline from a more sophisticated and critical perspective. You can also partner with another artist to exchange work for objective input and feedback.
4. Strategic Thinking and Implementation
While computers can give you the data necessary to make smarter decisions, they can’t give you the overall strategy you need to make the most out of that data. That’s why employees who are highly skilled at strategic thinking and plotting out detailed implementation plans for selected strategies and objectives will always be in high demand. AI can help you do those tasks more effectively, but they can’t do them for you. Marketing managers, human resource managers, and project managers fall into this area.
To improve your skills in strategic thinking, start with seeking out information on developing and predicted trends both in your field and in any area that might impact your targeted customers and clients. Take in data from a variety of sources. Try to consume content from different industry leaders and media outlets for diversity of thought.
Additionally, get in the habit of asking more, different and deeper questions. Explore what your options are and what consequences those options are likely to trigger both in the short and long term. Practice stepping into the shoes of other stakeholders and interested people to examine a situation from a number of different perspectives.
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