The Ideal Worker in the Age of AI: Doing What the Machines Cannot

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As technology continues to advance, humans will encounter new challenges that change the way we live and work. In our quest to leverage tech to make our lives easier, we sometimes fail to notice the negative impacts these innovations may have until it’s too late.

The very same advances that make our lives more comfortable often displace a lot of people from jobs, creating massive disruptions in the workforce. As many as 25 percent of all US jobs are already at risk of being automated away, and as these disruptions start impacting more and more people at faster and faster speeds, it leads to a revolution.

In fact, we are already in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a revolution marked by the rapid maturation of artificial intelligence (AI). It is now possible to automate many tasks that used to be done exclusively by humans. As AI advances further, we’ll be able to automate even more. Each of us must prepare to remain relevant in the transformed economy — but what steps can we take to do that?

Know Yourself

First and foremost, it is important to know your basic psychological makeup, as this knowledge will help you ensure you are on the right career path. A good way to get to know your personality traits more clearly is with the help of the OCEAN or five-factor models  of personality. It’s also important to uncover your motivations and values, as understanding these things will help you improve the way you communicate and collaborate with colleagues.

Understanding our personalities can also help us carve out space for ourselves in the digital economy. Because emotional intelligence and creativity are not tangible or easily quantifiable, they have often been ignored in corporate cultures. In the era of AI, however, these are exactly the things that will give human workers an edge over machines and automation. We, as workers, need to bring something to the table that AI (for now) cannot. Machines can carry out logical tasks, but not emotional ones; they lack the context of subjective human experiences. Therefore, organizations need workers who excel in these crucial human qualities.

Building Tents, Not Houses

Work is often an intrinsic part of our identities, and the ideal worker today is one who is agile, flexible, and able to adapt in a constantly shifting work environment.

In a talk at Google, Historian Yuval Noah Harari offered a good analogy about developing flexible and adaptable identities: “If traditionally people built identities like stone houses with very deep foundations, now it makes more sense to build identities like tents that you can fold and move elsewhere. Because we don’t know where you will have to move, but you will have to move.”

This analogy applies as much to organizations as it does to people in the age of digital transformation. The future will need plenty of what I call “transition architects,” whose role is to help people build their tents. Companies will need these individuals to help both workers and organizations thrive through turbulent times of constant change.

Learning From the Past

As in all previous industrial revolutions, many people will be displaced by new technology if we do not create transition architecture that takes into account human well-being. Change is now coming at a very fast pace, but we do have an advantage over our ancestors: We have sufficient information about the past, which can inform the creation of a strong model of transition architecture for today.

We need to work on our human skills in order to supply that which machines still cannot. These skills include critical thinking, emotional intelligence, contextual creativity, and mindfulness. The ideal worker in the age of AI will be highly creative, good at combining and connecting the dots. They will be able to work alongside machines and provide the context needed in order to see the bigger picture.

The humans who will thrive in the age of AI will be the people who are good at working with technology and harnessing its power, while also excelling at communication skills and collaboration. Fortunately for us, these are also the hallmarks of the best of the best in any field.

Somi Arian is a tech philosopher, international speaker, entrepreneur, award-winning filmmaker, and LinkedIn Top Voice influencer. Her new book isCareer Fear (and How to Beat It): Get the Perspective, Mindset, and Skills You Need to Futureproof Your Work Life.

By Somi Arian