With the impending threat of job loss, job protection has become a burning issue. Upskilling is a standard option to counter job loss due to the automation and robotics. However, it’s easier for technology to take over codified knowledge and skill gained through traditional education and training. Fortunately, every occupation demands innate abilities. For automation and robotics, these inborn abilities are hard to imitate. Hence, it’s time to sharpen innate abilities to protect jobs.
According to some predictions, as high as 800 million jobs will be lost across the globe. In the US alone, 39 to 73 million jobs will likely see elimination by 2030, as reported by BBC in reference to an international consultancy. According to this forecast, in the UK, 20% of current jobs may be subject to automation over the same period.
To slow down as well as counter this bleak picture, there have been many suggestions. One of them is to tax robots. Another one is about universal guaranteed income (UGI). However, these options create more problems than they solve. For example, slowing down technology lead to limiting our ability to create increasing wealth from depleting resources. On the other hand, UBI creates social problems. Moreover, every country cannot exercise it.
There is a silver lining. It’s being predicted that “60 percent of occupations have at least 30 percent of constituent work activities that could be automated.” Moreover, each of those occupations requires our inborn, innate abilities. By sharpening those innate abilities, we can increase our role in our respective occupations. More importantly, for robot designers, it’s extremely difficult, perhaps not impossible, to automate those abilities. Hence, sharpen innate abilities to protect jobs may offer us an effective option.
Future of work and skill needs—lack of clarity is causing confusion
According to the world economic forum (WEF), “in 10 years time, 50% of jobs will be changed by automation.” As opposed to job loss, recent predictions are focusing on changes on the nature of jobs. But what will be the nature of change is not sufficiently clarified though. This lack of clarification is leading to inaccuracy about the need for upskilling. In 2017, WEF came up with a list of 10 skills most needed in 2020. This list included complex problem solving to cognitive flexibility. But why would robotics and automation driven labor market transformation requires these skills are not clear. If automation takes over the role of data analytics and autonomous decision making, why do human workers need complex problem-solving skills to make them employable? Similarly, all other eight prescribed skills appear to be high sounding without having much clarity of relevance.
Interestingly, in 2018, WEF has come up with a prediction about the change in 05 major skills in the US job market. These skills are i. Physical and manual skills ii. Basic cognitive skills, iii. Higher cognitive skills, iv. Social and emotional skills and v. technological skills. However, such a skill requirement will depend on the task content distribution. Not every country has the same task content distribution. Hence country-specific task content distribution should analyze and predicted to as assess the likely shift in skill requirements. Moreover, skill shifts will also depend on sectors. For example, healthcare will see a rising need for physical skills.
Sharpening innate abilities protect jobs and improve the quality
Most of the jobs require a combination of codified knowledge and skill and innate abilities. With the increasing data and algorithmic development, automation will be taking over the codified portion of the jobs. For example, diagnosing illnesses will soon (if not already) be accomplished better by machines than humans. This is the codified part of offering healthcare service. However, a good physician plays an additional role.
What about sitting with a family to discuss treatment options? In addition to diagnosing and prescribing medication, physicians play’s an important role in explaining, counseling, confidence building, and offering mental support. This is the humane part of healthcare service delivery. Although machine learning is effective when data sets are available for training and testing in diagnosing diseases, however, the humane part will less likely to be automated in the foreseeable future. Hence, specific attention could be given for empowering healthcare professionals in performing the humane part far better than before.
Thereby, on the one hand, the quality of healthcare service will progress, while healthcare professionals’ jobs will remain indispensable. As a matter of fact, as humanoid ASIMO could not acquire this capability, Honda management stopped further R&D on ASIMO to make it eligible for offering elderly care service.
Similarly, in education, technology will start playing the role of explaining what is written in books. However, a god a teacher plays a vital role in creating interest and motivation among students. In the absence of this later part, even access to online high-quality learning materials does not make much contribution in learning. As a matter of fact, this may be the likely underlying reason for a very poor completion rate on online education platforms. Hence, we should focus on sharping our innate abilities to increase the quality and protect our jobs.
Sharpen cognitive and sensory abilities
We need key ingredients of selective attention, critical thinking, creative problem solving, effective communication, adaptive learning, and good judgment for being context-sensitive. It has been found that it’s quite difficult to develop algorithms or train learning algorithms with the dataset to empower machines emulate such humans’ innate abilities. However, we inherit these abilities for being human. However, such capabilities could be sharpened further. It has been learned that there is a serious shortage of such soft skills in job seekers. In one survey, 93% of employers reported that “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than his or her undergraduate major.” Sharpening innate abilities in these two categories will also enable us to learn adaptively, make good decisions, and work well with others. These are highly sought-after abilities. However, they are extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to automate.
Sharpening of physical and psychomotor abilities for slowing down the invasion of robotics
In these two categories, we have 19 abilities. Amon them are finger dexterity, control precession, and reaction time. Despite the significant advancement of robotics, robot fingers are far inferior to ours. We need to take measures to keep sharpening these innate abilities. On the one hand, it will contribute to physical fitness, higher productivity, and precision in works requiring our physical involvement. On the other hand, it will make it harder for robot designers to have a higher comparative advantage than human workers. For example, upon sharpening these capabilities, bus drivers can increase the smoothness of driving and improve safety simultaneously. On the other hand, it will set a higher performance target for autonomous vehicles to archive to qualify for automating driving jobs. Hence, sharpen innate abilities to protect jobs might be an effective strategy.
In the age of robotics and automation, make the world more humane by sharpening innate abilities in protecting jobs
Like in the past, technology will keep taking over codified knowledge and skill, and other tedious roles. However, upon delegating those roles to machines, we should free ourselves to offer the fine human touch. It’s likely that this soft role will add far more value than before. However, we should sharpen our innate abilities to empower us to add maximum value thorough the softer part of human capability. Such a changing role will improve the quality of our economic outputs, and more importantly, of our living standards. On top of it, it will protect jobs for humans without slowing down the progression of technology. Subsequently, we will free ourselves from the roles which a machine can do better. While maintaining humans’ edge over robots, we will be contributing to adding that value that machines cannot offer. Consequentially, the world will be more humane in the age of robotics and automation.