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The Human Skills AI Can’t Replace

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how the kind of thinking required to create a strong personal statement is a great brain-training exercise that technology cannot teach or replace. We could say that is true of art, generally speaking. This occurred to me after reading NY Times technology columnist Kevin Roose’s Futureproof: 9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automation sparked my thought as I read about the types of jobs that will survive AI and assure future job growth.

From Roose’s book:

“There are three categories of work that I think are unlikely to be automated in the near future. One is "surprising work." So this is work that involves complex rules, changing environments, unexpected variables. AI and automation really like regularity...concrete rules, bounded environments and repetitive action. This is why AI can beat a human in chess, but if you asked an algorithm to teach a kindergarten (quality education in general-my comment) class, it would fail miserably because that's a very irregular environment with lots of surprises going on. So those surprising jobs are the first jobs I think are relatively safe.”

“The second category is what I call "social jobs," jobs that involve making people feel things rather than making things. (These jobs also deal with the unpredictable-my comment.) Jobs in social services and health care, counselors, therapists, ministers, coaches, but also people who perform sort of emotional labor as part of their jobs, people like flight attendants and baristas, people we don't typically think of as being "social" workers, but their jobs do involve an element of making people feel things.”

“The third category of work that I think is safe is what I call "scarce work." It's work that involves...high-stakes situations, rare combinations of skills, or just people who are experts in their fields. This would include jobs that we have decided are unacceptable to automate. We could replace all of the human 911 operators with robots. That technology exists. But if you call 911 today, you will get a human because we want humans to be doing that job when we're in trouble. We want a human to pick up the phone and help us to deal with our problems.”

The truly human fields--and there are many--are wise ones for students not drawn to careers in STEM to investigate.


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