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Four tips for staying employed in the age of artificial intelligence

Automation and robots have many advantages for employers over human workers. They don’t use the bathroom or ask for overtime pay. On the other hand, they’re terrible conversationalists and never bring cupcakes to the office. Savvy workers who want to keep their jobs might consider that just the mere fact of having a human brain, whether it has earned degrees or not, can be a big advantage in staying ahead in the job market. But you have to use it. Economists, computer scientists and others who’ve studied automation and artificial intelligence have some advice for those whose future livelihood might be threatened by a machine.

Be creative.

There’s a reason critical thinking, and problem-solving are hot topics in education today – robots are terrible at both. To take a problem apart, analyze and explain it? These are tasks that flummox all but the robots on “Star Trek.” Imagination, being able to negotiate, think into the future, these are human-only traits.

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Be emotional.

Remember in the film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” how HAL 9000 sent that astronaut to his death without any emotion whatsoever? In fact, we were the ones who felt empathy for HAL, singing his sad song as the other astronaut disassembled his brain. Needless to say, HAL would never be allowed to interact with customers. To listen with empathy, to handle a sticky problem and send a customer away happy – these are things only people can do. There’s a reason therapists and counselors are among the jobs most safe from automation and A.I. robots. You don’t have to be a therapist, but if you have some of those skills, you’re better off.

Be flexible.

“Stackable credentials” are job-market buzzwords for a reason. The world changes every day, and smart workers have to be able to change with it. One man may have been a lineman for the county, but his grandson is more likely to get additional training to fly the drone that searches in the sun for an electrical overload. They’re both doing the same job, but in very different ways. Still on the line, you might say.

Be an artisan.

Someday a robot factory may make the Ikea chaise lounge you have in the corner of your bedroom. That factory will make millions of them. But one that’s unlike any other, crafted from reclaimed barn siding and upholstered with restored horse blankets? A person will make that.


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