How to stay employable in the age of automation

AI will replace humans, but the change will be for good

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“A man who can be replaced by a machine, will be.”

I’m with those who believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will replace humans. But I believe, the change will be for good. And my belief is for the reason that we, humans, are special. To tell u why - let me tell you a story.

Yesterday, I met Ashish during an Uber ride. He was the cab driver. I knew Ashish. About 6 months back, he used to clean my cars. He was a young lad who had come to Noida with his father for work. They belonged to a very primitive tribal community of a backward village. Ashish had never been to any school, never used a smartphone, and the only thing he knew to drive was a bullock-cart. Noida was a complete new world for him. The language was different, people were aliens, and the culture was strange.

It was a shock for me to see how Ashish had transformed himself, and that too in just 6 months. It’s amazing how he upgraded his skills to become an Uber driver as for him I am sure this wouldn’t have been easy. According to him it was the only way he could have survived in the city. He is a true example of how people like Ashish transform themselves for the betterment.

Ten years ago I couldn’t have imagined driving a cab in Delhi being less stressful and more paying. Moreover, idea like carpooling was never a viable option before the launch of these mobile apps. The reason Uber has become so successful is technology, AI. Because of AI Uber rides are optimised i.e. more rides at a less expense and time. And hence, jobs like Uber exist so that people like Ashish can survive.

However, I wonder how long things will remain same for Ashish or for all of us.

Sooner, AI will empower machines to do all these jobs and will increase the unemployment rate many fold. For an example, we keep hearing about self-driving cars test failures and crashes and feel we are still many years away from getting rid of ‘human drivers’. However, scientifically speaking - there is no better way to learn and perfect a machine than failures. Each of these crashes is generating a tremendous amount of data to rapidly improve self-driving cars. Self-driving cars will further optimize the Uber rides and significantly reduce cost. But it will also make hundred thousand taxi drivers in Delhi alone jobless. Not just the drivers but many other jobs in other sectors are also similarly in jeopardy because of technological advances and AI.

It may all sound gloomy, but there is a hope. The change will also be for good.

In-fact, the whole purpose of technology evolution is to bring the change. A change because of which things would not remain the same. And it has been historically as well. As the technology has evolved, things have changed. This is how humans have evolved from Agriculture age to Information age.

The hope is that as we will go far beyond the information age where machines will perform jobs with higher efficiency and reduce the number of jobs in the human labor class. But this migration will be to move humans at the bottom of the pyramid towards the top. Advancements in technology will lead to creation of many more new layer of jobs that did not exist before and will divert humans towards a more fulfilling work environment. However, the skills that would be required for the jobs of future will be completely different.

For better or for worse the change is imminent. So to stay relevant in the future or win the battle of employability against machines, humanity as a whole, will have to upgrade like Ashish. To achieve a sanguine future, we will have to constantly evolve and learn new skills which will be the only way out.

To summarize, I believe the only answer to the question - ‘How to stay employable in the age of automation’ is - ‘You’. If you are willing to learn, no one can stop you. If not, nobody can help!