What will be the critical skills in the workplace twenty years from now? That question is haunting workers and parents of future workers aware that we are on the brink of profound changes in the workplace. The better we get prepared for that future, smoother will be the transition.
The fourth industrial revolution, powered by digital technologies is disrupting every business model and pre-conceived notion of value creation and consequently, work. Technologies like Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotics can replace human labor where we have not deemed possible before. Areas that require high cognition and contextualization, tasks demanding perception, discernment, comprehension, or insights, are no longer a challenge to the new bots. Smarter algorithms are challenging creativity and innovation, areas where machines will potentially replace humans with advantages too - including music and literature. New generative algorithms can be faster and more productive than scientists. Considering technology development do not follow our linear thinking but grows exponentially, we can imagine what those machines will be doing in ten years beyond driving our cars. Touché!
Not a big fan of the Armageddon of jobs.
It was entertaining to watch Kasparov being defeated by Deep Blue in 1997 for the first time, but that event started to pave the road for machine superiority. AI machines can process more data, cross more information and now interpret them faster and more efficiently than us. And more importantly, more and more information is available about everything and everyone - every choice made, product purchased, image pictured, and service registered - making impossible for our human brains to process all that, online, real time. We will need our AI friends to expand our cognitive skills, to find new solutions and break into new models. They will help us to make obsolete toxic workplaces and co-workers, bullying managers, unproductive meetings and even the payroll.
Our jobs will radically change in nature, function, and duration. We might keep witnessing the growth of the gig economy for a while, but I firmly believe those jobs will tend to be replaced by machines eventually, as the economies of scale are tremendous - imagine what a robotic manicure can bring regarding scale and innovation to customers. And at a fraction of the cost.
The real demand in the future will live on the high end of both the intellectual and emotional spectra. In a world where computers can do the labor, we will focus on moving science and human condition ahead. High intellectual development has always required simultaneous moral and ethics evolution. It is easy to see the events around nuclear weapons, clones and space exploration where some of the most desperate discussions are precisely the ethics around them and how to use those technologies to the wellbeing of humankind. Artificial Intelligence will require the same and maybe more and will throw most of us into new careers, willing it or not.
Multiple, Transferable and Affective Skills
Based on the lessons of previous high impact innovation adoption, I project three types of skills that will be in high demand within one or two decades. They are multiple professional skills, transferable skills, and affective skills.
Most of the high intellectual jobs demand will happen on the crossing of two or more professions. If e-discovery eliminates the need for Jr. Counselors and Paralegal's, on the other end, we will need Lawyers with Computing Science skills to create new algorithms, for example. If robots will master small surgeries and replicate them at scale, we will need more research doctors with mechatronic skills to develop and test new procedures. Before tapping into the job market, college students should define their area of interest and learn which professions combined are impacting that field. Education is a must.
Most of the intellectual work in the future will be developed collectively. Collaboration, communication skills, and teamwork, for example, will be critical to any job in any area. Those skills will be essential for one to perform in new environments, mostly virtual, and get things done with and through others. The exciting aspect is that most of those skills once mastered can be applied in any job or project. Professionals should carefully choose what transferable skills they want to learn and how to demonstrate them in every engagement.
It is clear by now that most of the jobs we understand as middle-class ones like management, supervision and office jobs will be gone fast. We will have more free time and live longer. We will need to take care of each other more and dedicate more time to our children education. We will have a demand to discuss ethics and moral in many new business areas. Our social efforts will be intensified, and public organizations will demand new services and new professionals. It will be a time where lots of new jobs will require compassion and humane approach. It is time to grow as human beings beyond our intellects and learn how to be kind and help each other. Empathy, sympathy, caring, generosity, altruism and sense of community will define our professional success more than our hard skills.
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