When it comes to artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and robotics, there are generally two main schools of thought, especially when it comes to these technologies serving as the key to the future of work. The first is that AI will take over humanity—perhaps even violently—and all of us will be forced into redundancy due to machines that eventually become smarter than humans are themselves. Yes—it’s dark.
The second school of thought—and my personal alma mater—believes in a kinder, more utilitarian AI universe—one where technology exists not for its own sake, but to augment and enhance the skills of the people using it. After all, a key is meant to unlock the door to something greater—not something of value in and of itself.
Key to the Future of Work: “Next Era” Partnership
The truth is, none of us—human or AI—can predict the future of work in this moment. That said, we do have some pretty good ideas how technology will co-exist with humans in the next 10 to 15 years.
The Institute for the Future (IFTF) and Dell have been working together to put some broad brushstrokes to that vision. One of the most colorful threads: humans will serve as “digital conductors” in the modern world, where tech exists within and as an extension of us, rather than separate from us as it is now.
What the heck does that even mean? Imagine this: in the future, we’ll store smart phones in our brains, not our pockets. We’ll play video games with neural pathways rather than digital consoles. We’ll be able to implant computers into our bodies, rather than sitting at desks and coffee shops to type on them. It’s mind-blowing stuff, yes. But it also opens up huge opportunities for humans to save time, money, and energy in pursuit of even more amazing things. This time and capacity are both keys to the future of work. Indeed, this second machine age, or fourth industrial revolution, has brought the most uncertainty, but also the greatest opportunity of any age we’ve ever experienced.
Key to the Future of Work: Learning in the Moment
One of the stats that never fails to blow my mind is this: more than 80 percent of the jobs we’ll be doing in 2030 don’t even exist yet. Forget Chief Data Officer or Data Protection Officer. I’m talking jobs that we as humans can’t even fathom yet because we have no reference point to even imagine them. That’s one reason IFTF has marked “in the moment training” as another key to the future of work. Rather than seeing students head to college to train for four years to learn coding or cyber security, for instance, we’re more likely to see employers hiring adaptable, resilient, smart, capable leaders who can pick up new skills as needed, amidst a fast-flowing sea of change.
Which brings me to another key to the future of work: soft skills. As our relationship with technology and AI continues to intensify, we’ll be seeing employers putting greater emphasis on A+ “human skills,” rather than simple technical skills. Indeed, as machines continue to overtake the mundane and menial tasks, it gives room for deeper cognitive traits like compassion, empathy and complex problem-solving within the human brain to partner alongside machines to create new jobs, new experiences and solve problems that have to this day been unsolvable.
Key to the Future of Work: Going with the Flow
While many don’t agree how the future of work will look, most do agree that we’ll need to change to embrace it—most likely daily. This means considering new business models that allow us to use technology to its fullest—strategically—every step of the way.
The future of work does not have to be a scary one. In fact, it can be an incredibly exciting one as we prepare to use technology in ways most of us have never even imagined—from creating our own real-life Iron Man suits to aid solders, to building smart exo-skeletons that help those suffering from paralysis. All we need to do is remember who’s in charge.