Magazine excerpt: Rise of the robot

Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington, April Koury and Helena Calle on learning to survive, thrive and lead in the era of smart machines.

The world of work is being transformed by disruptive ideas enabled through technologies, especially artificial intelligence. These technologies hold the potential to deliver changes that sit on the boundary between magic and science fiction.

To help organisations and individuals navigate this strange new world, the spotlight is on learning and development functions. Why? Because the capacity to learn anew, let go of what’s out of date, and experiment our way to the future will be central to success.

To help put the possible changes in an everyday context, in this article we explore 10 currently human job roles and professions that could be transformed and the potential implications for the future L&D needs of those affected. 

Technology is likely to take over many of the tasks done by humans today, but it will also create new opportunities. So, why act now if we can’t actually see the changes happening yet? The major concern for this new job market is how to ensure we can succeed in an uncertain market. Hence, given our jobs are likely to change, we can either wait until that happens, or do something about it now. 

A positive perspective

At the heart of business transformation is artificial intelligence, which is expected to have a major impact on society and disrupt most industries. However, the scenario of robots and machines taking over society, leaving humans in the despair of permanent unemployment, seems unlikely, given that we bring far more than technical competence to our jobs.

More optimistic scenarios portray the positive impact of AI on society with a focus on increasing human productivity. This might be done by delivering specific outcomes more efficiently, allowing humans to focus their talents on tasks requiring higher level skills like problem solving, and exercising creativity  to develop new products and services.

To help organisations and individuals navigate this strange new world, the spotlight is on learning and development functions. Why? Because the capacity to learn anew, let go of what’s out of date, and experiment our way to the future will be central to success.

For example, autonomous police cars could undertake high-speed chases and use robots or drones to detain the occupants without risking officers’ lives. We will still need human officers to investigate offences, prosecute criminals and look after victims – all of which require empathy and human traits that machines may never have.

The process of automation changes the type of job tasks we are expected to do, hence the perspective we have of our role. For example, in education, AI might impart most of the technical skills and information required by learners, allowing educators to focus on developing human-to-human social skills.

It is important to evaluate what we will need to do to develop our capacity to adapt to new roles and thrive in this new job environment. This means learning new skills that help us create solutions to new problems and challenges that will arise. It also means enhancing our capability to embrace what makes us human and differentiates us from machines.

In this space, in the fast-moving entities of the emerging future, lies the opportunity for L&D to play a central role in transforming and sustaining our organisations. So, let’s look at how some roles and professions might evolve and the implications for L&D.

Hyper-digital entrepreneurs/ecosystem leaders

Instead of looking for human partners and employees, tomorrow’s hyper-digital entrepreneurs might increasingly look to integrate a set of AI systems that would match more closely to their own personality profile and range of business needs. Such businesses could become more common as artificial general intelligence (AGI) materialises, enabling the growth of fully automated (DAOs) which have no employees.

The DAOs might still need to bring in individuals to do tasks that machines can’t, and work with external human partners as part of an ecosystem. Both these groups will need to learn how to work and partner in an environment where the machines make all the decisions and there are no humans to turn to. 

Another model becoming increasingly prevalent is for firms to reduce their own headcount and work with an ecosystem of independent external partners and for those partners to go to market as a collective.

Leaders within the larger businesses will have to learn how to inspire and work with such an ecosystem of independent  workers that manage their own one-person businesses, some of whom may once have been employees.

The people working in one-person businesses will need to learn how to work collaboratively with other independent workers and how to offer situational leadership when required. 

This is an abridged version of a feature from May’s TJ magazine. To get the full insight, subscribe here.


About the authors

The authors are futurists with Fast Future, specialising in studying and advising on the impacts of emerging change. 


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