Skills of the Future: How you can outsmart Robots in the workplace of the future?


Isaac Asimov, in his short story ‘Runaround’ which he wrote back in the year 1942 introduced 3 laws of Robot.

But what if robots start disobeying those orders?

What if in the near future robots are able to replace all the humans in the workplace? Do we have a backup plan?

Automation is replacing humans in the workplace.

Despite an alarming degree of jobs that will be destroyed in the near future, there is a ray of hope that many more jobs will be concurrently created in the process.

Now, the million-dollar question is, “What are the skills that are necessary to survive in the coming future?”

How can humans increase their value by acquiring some skills?

In this age of machine learning, humans are required to future-proof their careers and build competencies which can give an edge to humans over machines. Here are six skills which can help humans to effectively tackle the challenges of the machine world without any conflict.

1) Sophisticated Problem Solving

In a question on Quora, what will a human always do better than an AI? Blake Senftner, who works for a facial recognition company that employs AI, gave an answer which made sense to me.

AI will solve a problem based upon its previous assumptions. Whatever it has learnt in the past, it will apply on the task at hand. But when it comes to new unknown variables, AI will find it behind humans.

What makes humans different? Humans are better when it comes to self-awareness. While humans can easily solve problems even when they are half-asleep AI can take an unlimited amount of time to analyze millions of unknown scenarios before presenting any solution.

What people can do to prosper in the machine-dependent future is to develop a better understanding of how to solve problems in a creative manner? This alone will keep the humans ahead of machines.

In a brilliant article by Ned Herrmann, Ned argues that when a person is in a relaxed state and his mind is at peace then he can then generate new ideas that can solve the most complex of problems.

“Individuals who do a lot of freeway driving often get good ideas during those periods when they are in theta. Individuals who run outdoors often are in the state of mental relaxation that is slower than alpha and when in theta, they are prone to a flow of ideas. This can also occur in the shower or tub or even while shaving or brushing your hair. It is a state where tasks become so automatic that you can mentally disengage from them.”

2) Critical Thinking

As humans, we have this ability to see things and apply disciplined thinking to understand how they work and what can be done to find new ways to solve the modern-day problems.

Imagine this. If I tip a glass of water. It’ll result in water spilling out. Humans can make deductions on what can happen even without trying it out.

But if the same scenario is presented on a computer, the result can be a disaster. Because unlike humans, machines need exact specifications on the objects that are involved. According to a computer scientist, Ernest Davis, machines need physical properties of the cup, the shape, the force which is applied to the cup and the physical properties of the content of the cup.

People, on the other hand. Don’t need any such kind of information. Anyone can do this with a  coffee cup which doesn’t have any lid on it.

3) Creativity

“Art is one of the last domains in AI where there is an optimistic view on how humans and machines can work together,” says Dave King, founder of Move 37

Sure, art can mimic the style of a famous artist, but creating something that is absolutely unique and resonates with people on an emotional level is a skill only humans possess.

Creativity is all about combining old knowledge to new unimaginable situations. This is why people find it difficult to write a book that touches readers or paint a picture that steals the attention of museum-goers.

While talking to the Guardian, Michael Osbourne shares his views, ‘AI operates on strict rules and explicit instructions, which is the exact opposite of creativity.’

So, if you’re willing to survive in the future, the best approach is to develop your creative juices flowing.

4) People Management

There was a lot of ballyhoo regarding Google Assistant. Everyone praised it. Everyone loved it. But do you actually think if you share a problem with the Google Assistant it will show compassion, and kindness towards you?

I don’t think so. Machines cannot even understand emotions, how can they manage people? Even the coolest robots cannot match the empathy, teamwork, and even the humor that humans share with each other. Let alone managing them.

Only actual humans can understand and relate to the problems of other humans. Machines can never judge the intention, passion, and work ethics of humans. Pick up some books on people management, and you’re good to go.

5) Negotiation

Negotiation with people consists of two things. Reasoning a problem, and second linguistic understanding. After we understand the problem we formulate a verbal structure to negotiate with another human.

While machines, on the other hand, can lead communications to such an extent:

Negotiation is simultaneously a linguistic and a reasoning problem, in which an intent must be formulated and then verbally realized. Such dialogs contain both cooperative and adversarial elements, requiring agents to understand and formulate long-term plans and generate utterances to achieve their goals.

This is a supreme example which shows that machines do need more than chips and AI to relate what is the problem of other human and how to resolve it?

6) Cognitive Flexibility

Another skill where humans can outsmart machines is ‘Cognitive Flexibility’. The ability to switch the working style on demand.

Humans can try one thing and fail at it. They can communicate with other humans and come-up with a different approach to solve a problem. Machines, on the other hand, cannot think of anything other than the input which is fed to them.

So, if you can exercise your brain muscles constantly and come-up with various methods to solve a problem, you are already above the machine.

Wrapping it up..

Machines and AI are extremely good when it comes to automating repetitive tasks. They can do it faster and more efficiently than humans. But when there is something which involves creativity, deep thinking, negotiation, or people management humans can outsmart machines without getting fired from their jobs.