Metathesiophobia is a term many will be unfamiliar with. It is a phobia… but not just any phobia. We use the label of Metathesiophobia to describe a person with a chronic fear of change. As the business world accelerates at such a rapid pace displacing more and more jobs the ability to cope and adapt with change has become top of employers hiring checklist. In the tech sector, the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning is bringing sweeping changes to how businesses operate in every industry. But with all this change, success in life is no longer about what you know but what you can do or how fast you can learn how to do it. Or as Richard Dawkins once aptly put it:
“It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”
Where we are now
We’ve all seen the prophesized AI future in the movies. But it always seems too far-fetched and unrealistic. The thought of future self-driving cars, talking computers, and robot armies seemed the pipe dreams of a lunatic. But increasingly these once ridiculed “notions” have become more realistic. The AI arms race between America and China starts a testimony to that.
Technology has become critical to most businesses today. It helps them get things one quicker as well as with computation and storage of vast amounts of data. Data especially has become the new gold. Companies are eagerly gathering it at a rapid pace in order to use it to target customers more effectively and understand people better. The GDPR implementation recently was a government-induced reactionary measure to regulate the amount of information corporations are collecting about people.
This information holds huge value. It provides insight into an individual’s personality, tastes, preferences, and desires. Not only this but also gives a glimpse into other personal information such as biases, political leanings, and ominously - their insecurities. Once these are known, messages can be crafted creatively to manipulate and move people like pawns on a chessboard. This data, however, carries an even more important significance. Artificial intelligence and machine learning heavily rely on data to make decisions which informs automation processes.
AI in action
Already, artificial intelligence (AI) machines can perform many tasks where learning and judgment are required. It is expected to replace half of the jobs in the next decade. This list includes self-driving cars, insurance assessment, stock trading, accounting, HR, and many tasks in healthcare. In construction sites, they are trialling it with with increasing success. In one site (see video below) an automated machine lays bricks while a person behind follows smoothing out the cement.
The number of Jobs involving routine skills — both physical and cognitive — is shrinking. Increasingly automation in factories is replacing workers, even in low-wage countries like China. Amazon, Tesla and all of the biggest corporations now rely mostly on automation to get the bulk of the physical work done.
AI reaches the middle class
Whats interesting is how far AI is extending. It is even beginning to take over once highly skilled work. Technologists are now looking at how they can automate a doctor’s jobs potentially minimizing the need for GP’s. By collecting vast amounts of data and collating they envision being able to diagnose whats wrong with you by the touch of a button. This would minimize human error.
In the legal field also especially in America at the moment lawyers are disappearing like mad as automation renders many lawyers within larger firms not necessary. It’s worth noting that lawyers spend a lot of time gathering and parsing data, creating or reviewing legal documents and numerous other mundane tasks. By automating these processing many lawyers could be replaced by AI legal assistants within firms.
Accountants are also seeing a major threat to their existence as algorithms and auto-generated bookkeeping render much of their job obsolete. The explosion of availability of online courses is also threatening the existence of universities. Many are questioning the need to attend university when they could learn the skills they need to find a job in their profession through online courses. This is particularly true when it comes to technology fields where courses are often outdated and lack correlation with the needs of the job market. One professor predicts that half the colleges and universities in the U.S. will close in the next couple decades.
Can you AI proof your career?
In today’s working environment you need to be technically proficient to get your job done. Few jobs exist that do not utilize technology in some way. It helps us communicate across nations, streamline processes, and get more done. Machines are great at doing the repetitive and boring tasks which often lead to human errors when we do it. This ability has helped us increase our efficiency and productiveness and doing the painstaking jobs that humans don’t like anyway. This allows us to focus on more important jobs and more cognitively challenging work. So when asking how can you future-proof your career, what you really should be asking is how do you become more valuable and skilled than a robot.
What is a safe job today with AI taking jobs at an increasing rate? First, it’s important to look at what robots cannot do and what humans can do. Robots cannot be creative or social. Therefore outsourcing jobs that require creativity and social interaction will never be possible. This leaves jobs like teachers, nurses, technologists, creative professions like design and hairdressers relatively safe.
The ability to self-learn and teach yourself complicated and difficult skills will be key to surviving the digital future. That will require the discipline to put your phone down and turn off social media and concentrate on hard tasks for extended periods of time. In the age of the attention economy, this won’t be easy. Coping with change will also be critical to keep abreast of new technology.
Looking towards the future
Flexibility, agility, critical thinking, and creativity will be key skills we must all cultivate to attract this new AI future. The concerning point is that these skills are becoming increasingly deficient due to peoples over-reliance on technology. In order to be creative, you need to be able to cope with boredom. You must also actively discipline yourself to think in order to create. Today most people spend all their time consuming social media posts, videos or with earphones plugged in oblivious to whats going on around them. This could come back to haunt them as the new technological revolution threatens to widen the gulf between rich and poor and only accept people at the table who can bring the necessary skills.