Will I be replaced by Artificial Intelligence? What will I do if my line of work becomes automated? How can I possibly learn new skills? All of these questions, and much more accumulate when pondering the Future of Work. Honestly, overcoming the anxiety associated with the mysterious Future of Work may be the hardest obstacle.
With less than optimistic news floating around from the likes of The New York Times and Forbes and popular headlines such as “The Jobless Economy” and “Are Virtual Sweatshops the Future of Work”, it’s hard to feel confident that any job is secure.
So, instead of talking about the computers that can write their own code, robots that’ll take your order, and AI paralegals that can sift through thousands of cases instantaneously, I’d like to approach this conversation from an actionable standpoint. As in, what are actionable insights to ensure job security for the fast approaching Future of Work?
Liberal Arts for the Win
AI excels at technical tasks but struggles with the Bigger Picture.
As Mark Cuban points out, critical thinking skills learned through Liberal Arts studies are very important to have in the Future of Work. If he could go back to college, he’d exchange his Accounting degree for one in Philosophy.
For instance, English majors really understand how to form valuable opinions and argue those important points. Art Majors learn a great sense of visual taste, design skills, and an eye for aesthetic. Let’s not forget about the Philosophy majors that can tap into the wisdom of 3,000 years worth of great thinkers.
Generally, Liberal Arts degrees have carried a stigma of useless skills. In the task-oriented, business world, there was no room for creative conversations. But, that was yesterday. Today and tomorrow, intuition and creativity will rule the boardroom. The skills gained in Liberal Arts studies are exactly the skills that will take AI the longest to learn.
There will always be limitations of technology. Right now, the Liberal Arts are a distinct advantage. However, as AI research continues, these creative skills may also be at risk.
That’s why it’s important to define your view of AI, so you can roll with the punches as AI progresses.
Your Mindset Matters to The Future of Work
Your view of the Future of Work stems from one of two mindsets:
Do you see the rise of AI as an ally or do you see it as an enemy – something that enhances your job, or competes for it?
The more favorable approach is realizing the potential of AI and using its skills to augment your capabilities – using its strengths as a strength of yours to excel further.
Phil Jackson approached coaching the Chicago Bulls in this way. He realized that Michael Jordan’s biggest strength wasn’t necessarily his skill, but that he was like honey to a bunch of bees. The other teams always heavily guarded him. Instead of creating plays that focused on getting MJ open, Phil designed plays that created MJ as a diversion. When teams keyed in on the swift style of MJ, he dished the ball to Pippen, Paxson, Kerr, and others. Six NBA championships later, using the strength of their star player as a diversion enhanced MJ’s play and the entire team.
On the flip side, I would advise against entering in a competition with AI. But, if you choose that mindset, then don’t focus on AI’s strengths because you’ll never beat them. Instead, pinpoint AI’s weaknesses and make those your strengths.
The entire genre of hip-hop was heavily influenced by this style of thinking. The RZA, of the Wu-Tang Clan, noticed the limitations of the musical technology present. At the time, beat-making machines could only record two bars at a time. This limitation gave birth to a form of production known as sampling, where producers used the beats and hooks in other popular music to create new beats (hence the name, sampling). In using this weakness of technology to his advantage, the RZA catapulted the Wu-Tang Clan to the top of the charts and influenced a slew of future hip-hop producers such as Kanye West and The Alchemist.
The limitations of technology can become artistic tools themselves, as the RZA showcased. Which spurs the question of creativity and AI.
Is creativity the only safe profession?
Many people believe that a computer can’t be creative, that it can’t have an original thought. But, there are early warning signs that this isn’t true. AI is proving to us that it can write pretty well, and may have a future in picking up where Shakespeare left off. Google’s AI art project, Deep Dream, is churning out inspirational (and freaky) art constantly.
So, will AI master the creative output?
Maybe. Even if it does, there’s nothing to worry about because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There will always be a connection between humans and the art they make.
Not to mention, creativity is greatest during times of competition. Commonly, creative communities foster a healthy competitive challenge of one-upping each other. The Renaissance was so profound because there were hundreds of thousands of people sitting around with nothing to do but be more creative than the next guy. People point to the best period in hip-hop when Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur pitted the West Coast against the East Coast, and the styles became distinct.
Instead of AI replacing creative professions, they will enhance them. Man and machine will work together to ask each other questions that have never been asked before. Creative projects will be heavily influenced by the technology that augments the creative process. Similar to how Andy Warhol had a team of creatives he worked with daily, creatives of the future will have teams of AI to work alongside, bolstering each other’s expression.
In fact, many people even believe the Future of Work isn’t going to be work, but rather a Second Renaissance. The skilled writer, artist, and musician will further use technology as inspiration and creative tools to best express themselves.
So, don’t fret that there will never be any more jobs, ever, in the Future of Work. It’s just a transitional period. Perhaps the biggest takeaway you can have in preparation for the Future of Work is the importance of overcoming the anxiety of it.
Overcoming Anxiety is the Key
Anxiety is a normal reaction. It means that you care about something important. Yet, overcoming anxiety is harder than taking a few deep breaths (even though that will help).
However, you must reframe your mindset towards one of preparation to overcome anxiety.
In the wise words of the late, great Bruce Lee, “Don’t be forecasting evil unless it is what you can guard against. Anxiety is good for nothing if we can’t turn it into a defense.”
Overcoming anxiety is rooted in preparation. Finding areas of anxiety means you’ve found a weakness. Overcoming anxiety of a strength is never a problem since you have confidence in your abilities.
Therefore, overcoming the anxiety of a weakness means that you must learn about the weakness, study those that have achieved greatness in that area of your weakness, and begin building your defenses there.
Unless redirected to improve and prepare yourself, anxiety is merely mental baggage – weighing your mind down during daily travel.
For the reason that technology and the future can be so overwhelming, I created Quick Theories – a weekly newsletter exploring modern technology and its possible effects on your future – to help you understand and adopt technology in your own creative way.
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