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Published on September 9, 2017

The Types of Jobs That Won’t Be Taken Over By Artificial Intelligence

The Types of Jobs That Won’t Be Taken Over By Artificial Intelligence

Your resume will probably look pretty quaint in five years. It’s not your fault. It’s just that your job and the responsibilities you hold now and have held in the past are rapidly becoming obsolete. Blame the machines.

Artificial intelligence, or AI, in the forms of software systems and computer-driven robotics is already taking on many American jobs, and will ultimately come after many more. In fact, the accounting and consulting firm PwC estimates that the machines will replace some 38 percent of U.S. jobs by 2030.

Another scary fact is, two years ago Google DeepMind developed an algorithm that allows machines to “learn” just as quickly as humans. AlphaGo is an AI computer program that plays the Chinese board game Go well enough to beat a professional player.  Your job might be targeted soon if it isn’t already.  But you can keep your career out of the cross-hairs.

Save Your Job Through “The Elon Musk Model”

Obviously AI won’t replace everyone.  If 38 percent of jobs are predicted to be lost, that means 62 percent will remain under human control (at least for the near future).  So what will save us from losing our career?

We can look toward the very forward-looking Elon Musk for answers. Musk is the South Africa-born inventor, innovator, entrepreneur and driving force behind PayPal, SpaceX, the Hyperloop and electric car pioneer Tesla, just to name a few creations of his fertile imagination.

By taking a closer look at the workforce behind just one of his companies, Tesla, we can see which jobs are likely to survive over the next several years — and which might not.

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Tesla, Inc. is not a traditional automaker.  The Tesla way is to get from concept to model quickly.  To fail fast and to go where others haven’t gone before.  Think of Tesla’s Musk as the Christopher Columbus of 21st century innovation.

Check out this job tier pyramid.

    It gives us a way of organizing and describing the tiers seen in the employment picture today. All of the jobs we currently hold can fall into one of these three categories.

    The Known Known

    This is the base tier of the pyramid because it describes the largest number of American jobs today.

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    At Tesla, or any automaker for that matter, this worker category includes those in manufacturing and assembly.  The process of making the parts and assembling vehicles out of them is a known set of steps.  It’s relatively predictive across all automotive platforms.  What we mean is that workers who do this sort of thing use processes that are largely familiar and consistent whether they’re making a Tesla Model S or a Hyundai Accent.

    This consistency of job performance is bad news when it comes to human employment.  Workers in this tier don’t have to bring much new knowledge to the workplace.  Robots and software can be easily “taught” to take on such predictable responsibilities.

    The Industrial Revolution brought on the first outcry against technology.  Workers of the day felt that the new machines were going to push them aside, but the truth was that the workers could be trained to run the machines.  Instead of replacing them, the new ways helped them work faster and easier.  And there was still plenty of manual labor.

    Today, it only takes a few human workers to operate and maintain a robotic assembly line.

    The Known Unknown

    Again focusing on Tesla, workers who hold jobs in the Known Unknown tier include business analysts and budget team members and the engineers and designers whose minds download what the assembly workers will put out.  They’re creatively addressing known challenges with unknown solutions.

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    Their tools are the computers that can’t (yet) do the work without them.  Their days’ responsibilities are variable and unpredictable.  They know what their challenges are, and what they’ll end up with, but they must figure out how to get there.

    Their jobs are safe.  For now.

    The Unknown Unknown

    We could also call this work category The Most Difficult Job in the World.  Why?  Because there’s no job description.  This is the top-of-the-pyramid tier that consumes Elon Musk’s time.  He constantly confronts unknown challenges with unknown solutions.

    There was no road map to affordable electric car production until Musk decided to build such a map and the road itself — and put his Model S on it.  Just like there was no business model for what became PayPal until he decided to start working on a digital payment platform.

    Make no mistake, this is a high-risk, high reward career path.  There are no case studies.  No mentors.  No fallback positions because there’s nowhere to fall.  Musk is a problem solver who’s highly adaptable and not afraid of trial and error.  Of failing or suffering expensive setbacks or going alone where no one has gone before him.

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    Your advantage if you’re on the Unknown Unknown job tier is that the machines aren’t a threat.  AI can’t get programmed to execute actions and activities that have never existed before they sprung from your mind.  You’re ahead of the game.  Ahead of the machines.

    Not forever.  Once you’ve done it, it can be copied.  Replicated by competitors human or digital.  Consider the iPhone.

    Until Steve Jobs comprehended a whole new vision of what a simple phone could be, and then set to work on it, there was no risk of replication. Now? Well, virtually any skilled technician, programmed machine can reverse engineer even the most innovative smartphone.

    What that means is that the challenge of taking your career into Unknown Unknow territory is that you must stay there and perform at that same high level. Innovation is constant.

    We’re Not All Elon Musks but we can all be better than machines

    Most of our minds won’t remain open to brilliant innovative pursuits like the talented inventor, but you can better protect your career.

    Start by honestly reflecting on your responsibilities and job performance. How valuable is your input? Are you a problem solver? Is your work predictive, its processes consistent? Is your workflow pattern easy to see, or is every day different, filled with new challenges?

    The best way to protect your career over the foreseeable future is to stay a step or two ahead of the machines. Get on or stay on a career path of creativity, innovation and self-direction.

    More by this author

    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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