Self-driving cars are already here and one of them even predicted an accident before it happened. In spite of the recent leaps in automation technology, the fact is that automation in every possible sector isn’t going to happen overnight. While automation is expected to replace humans in many fields, emerging technology and certain key sectors will make absolute automation nearly impossible. So what are these fields and what are the skills that humans will need to beat the robots at the ‘skills’ game in the future?
What robots can do better
According to a recent report by McKinsey, the current automation technology has successfully achieved better results in tasks like planning and optimization, information retrieval, navigation, and reading predictable patterns. Apart from these, there’s a sizeable progress in autonomous inference and integration of sensory perception. However, all of these strides in technology still leave a lot of unfinished work for the humans, and the robots with a limited scope of taking over the jobs.
According to the same report, productivity growth from automation is pegged between 0.8 to 1.4 percent over the next 50 years.
What robots cannot do better
In spite of the advances in robotics, technology is still unable to match humans in logical reasoning, creativity, coordination between multiple agents, reading and displaying social and emotional intelligence, and above all, exhibiting empathy.
These are some of the skills that humans are still, and will probably continue to maintain a stronghold on in the future. The complexities that each of these skills enable us to manage and help us in performing our duties still cannot be programmed into the machines. The contextual meanings of words in conversations, social skills that help build relationships and enable collaborations, cross-cultural skills, adaptive thinking and a design mindset are skills that machines have yet to acquire. Even though an argument can be made about artificial intelligence trying to dabble in creative arts, the fact is that the results have been underwhelming at best.
Apart from the cognitive skills issue, the other big issue is that of political stability. If robots start taking over your jobs, then soon they too will be out of jobs. As Tristram Hooley explains it, the robots can only produce and not consume. Since the production-consumption cycle is a delicate one that relies on human consumption that further depend on wages earned through work, a dent in the wages and consumption patterns will severely impact the economy, making a collapse imminent.
A large part of the debate between humans and machines still focuses on unemployment. However, as the previous instances of radical change in production and technology suggest, that may not be entirely true. Production lines did change the way goods were produced in the early 20th century, but they did not create mass unemployment. Computers changed the way office work is managed, but it too did not create unemployment. In both cases, as technology changed, so did people and businesses, and instead of mass layoffs, more opportunities were created. Whether robots will defy this precedent or not is unclear, but the fact that humans and machines will have to work together is quite clear.