4 skills that will help you survive the robot apocalypse at work

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The robots are coming to change the way we all work, and one expert is predicting “quite a lot of people in smart, well paid jobs” will be the first victims.

Tom Goodwin, head of innovation at US advertising agency Zenith, likens the rise in artificial intelligence – which takes in things like chatbots, machine learning and automation – to some basic advances in engineering made hundreds of years ago.

“If engineering and levers and pulleys were about … levers to our physical strength, and they allowed us to move heavy things around more easily, what’s quite different about artificial intelligence is it’s levered to our mental strength,” said the New York-based Goodwin.

Getting a university degree or even a PhD aren’t necessarily going to protect you from the changes which will roll through many industries in the next decade either.

“I think in the past many people with degrees or doing ‘smart’ jobs felt safe from the risk of automation. It was manual labour or repetitive tasks that were under threat. This changes it. Now that intelligence and analysis can be done by computers, the rise of machines becomes threatening to a lot more people — and people paid far more,” said Goodwin.

“I’m not saying it’s going happen magically and suddenly, but whether you’re studying cancer and crunching huge data sets, or even a lawyer and you need to digest hundreds of pages of documents, now computers can do a lot of that stuff.

“If you’re an analyst in a financial derivative or hedge fund, again computers can probably do a better job of analyzing this stuff.”

Goodwin thinks people-facing jobs like recruitment consultants, talent agents, estate agents, car sales people – or “jobs that get in the way of processes” as he describes them – are not immune either.

So what do you need to do to avoid being automated into obsolescence in the workforce of the future?

Goodwin explains it’s not going to be about how much knowledge you hold. “I actually increasingly think knowledge is less useful because we have the internet,” he said. “My ability to name every single capital city in the world when I was eight is now completely useless because we’ve got Google.”

Goodwin says there are four core skills people will need to prove themselves truly useful in these future workplaces.

  1. Curiosity: “It’s people that are curious, and people that are going to be reading and they’re going be expanding their level of interest around things and connecting dots in different ways. Curiosity’s going to be very key for future proofing.”
  2. Empathy: “I think empathy and your ability to build relationships with people and your ability to understand each other, do deals with each other and relate to each other’s business, is going to be vital.”
  3. Adaptability: “The reality is that people that are 15 now at school will be entering the workforce in 2023. We have no idea what the world of 2023’s really going be like. We certainly don’t know what 2030 is going be like, when they’re more in depth in their careers. So, I think preparing people with the knowledge that they might go into an office job and then they might have to re-train become a graphic designer and then they might have to re-train to be a legal professor, or something, will be key.”
  4. Creativity: “The one thing that so far has been extremely difficult for computers to really get is this notion of creativity and design. So I think that’s always going to be quite key.”

So if you’re wondering what your next training course should be – sharpening these skills should be top of your agenda.

Tom Goodwin is a keynote speaker at the NextGen in Business conference series taking place in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in May, to help businesses prepare for the multigenerational future. To see the line up and save $100 per ticket, click here and use the code BizInsider-100.

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