Artificial Intelligence, Automation and jobs

As you dive into artificial intelligence it’s hard not to come across news and opinions about how it will be taking over jobs. While there are concrete examples like automated beer delivery if you compile a report, follow a route or repeat a task A.I. will impact your life.

I can remember once when I was like 8 years my mom yelled at us about offering to help. She said that if we walked  into the kitchen and she was working on making dinner of cleaning we should ask if there was anything we could do to help. It was the least we could do to contribute she said.

Later, when we were older she yelled at us about asking if we could help. “You’re old enough now to know what needs to get done. The best way to help is to just do it. You don’t have to ask me!” she told us.

Simply following instructions didn’t add a lot of value, we had to think and act. That’s what artificial intelligence is starting to do and what we as humans have to get back to.

Image courtesy of Ilya Pavlov via Unsplash

There was a recent NY Times article about Siemens not having any jobs for high school graduates. They need people who can creatively solve problems and work with technology. It made me think about the kids who are in high school now with plans to go into a field that will be automated out of existence in the next 5 – 10 years.

For example, right now there is tremendous value in the ability and willingness to drive a tractor trailer truck from Sacramento to Chicago. Motor freight is a cost effective way to get a product from point A to point B. But the human is the most expensive part of the equation. Automation isn’t interested in getting rid of the person driving, it wants to get rid of the expense associated with the person. So humans need to look for other ways they can add value.

For those of us who sit in front of a computer all day it’s easy to see this with detachment. But regardless of whether your job is compiling reports,  writing copy or assembling components artificial intelligence is looking for ways to perform that function better and cheaper.

The good news is that it won’t happen overnight. There will be places where automation makes too much sense to ignore and it will be implemented quickly. A straight clearly marked super highway is easier for A.I. to navigate than narrow, twisty and unmarked back roads. Analysis based on intuition and off-line data sets will be far more difficult for A.I. than a forecast for standard, everyday necessities.

We have to stop thinking about getting paid to follow a process. What we all have to start thinking about is where we can add value. Asking what you can do that wouldn’t be the same if a computer did it will lead you to opportunities that may not have existed before. Future opportunities won’t come from doing things that a computer can’t do, they’ll come from doing things that humans would rather have done by another human.

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