Robots Are Coming To Take Your Job! So what else is new?

Fear of automation taking over jobs done by humans is nothing new. As far back as the invention of the wheel, through the first industrial revolutions, conveyor belts, and pick-and-place machines, the employed have felt threatened by machines. Pushbuttons have replaced elevator operators, analog and digital systems have replaced telephone operators, both POTS and cellular, cars replaced horse-drawn carriages and their human drivers, and so forth.

Call this phenomenon a technical revolution or just plain old evolution, it comes and will continue to do so until further notice. Most currently, robots with artificial intelligence appear to be next set of mechanical entrants into the job market.

According to Edward D. Hess, professor of business administration and Batten Executive-in-Residence at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, “Technology will be replacing more jobs at an ever-increasing pace, particularly with this next round of technology, which includes artificial intelligence (AI). AI is the game changer. It is the biggest discovery since fire! It effectively threatens to wipe out a whole new group of jobs, including white collar positions.”

The professor’s conclusions are in agreement with a recent University of Oxford study that found over the next 10 to 20 years, 66% of US employees have a medium-to-high risk of being replaced by smart robots and machines powered by artificial intelligence. Okay, robots with artificial intelligence will be taking over progressively more jobs as time and technology progress. It’s inevitable, and the point is what? The point is humans should not feel threatened by our little mechanical buddies, but accept the challenge rather.

In his book “Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization”, Professor Hess offers a number of strategies to help one stay on top of this evolution, or food chain if you prefer. First, he points out that the only safe jobs will be those requiring a human element. Humans are better than robots when it comes to creative, innovative, and complex thinking and engaging emotionally with other humans. Keeping up one’s skills in these areas will make one more irreplaceable.

Professor Hess offers other job-keeping strategies that include overcoming cognitive blindness, getting good at not knowing, changing mindsets about what being smart really is, practicing humility to help you really hear what customers and colleagues are saying, becoming an egoless collaborator, and sharpening your hands-on skills. All of these are discussed in depth in his book.

“Artificial intelligence will in many ways make our lives better”, says Hess. "But it will also challenge all of us to take our skills to a higher level in order to compete and stay relevant. We humans need to focus on continually developing the skills that are ours and ours alone, at least for the near future."

Now, if all else fails and you still feel threatened by a real or imagined robot apocalypse, you may want to get in on the ground floor of a great business idea. Start forming an organization and/or action network to protect the rights of robots and other androidal mechanisms. Enlist attorneys, accountants, and activists and form a non-profit entity that will ensure robots and their ilk are not fooled into mindlessly working 160-hour weeks like you were. Be bold, courageous, and even downright radical. Form a robot union if need be. When management sees how much it will cost them in benefits, overtime, and litigation, you’ll be right back there working on that assembly line before you can say Johnny Applegreed. So that “all else” does not fail, here is some info for obtaining the book by Professor Hess.

“Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization
(Columbia Business School Publishing, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-231-17024-6, $29.95, available at Amazon). For more details, visit