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When Robots Take Our Jobs, Emotional Intelligence Will Spike in Value

Yet another reason to practice empathy.

If outsourcing was the greatest U.S. job-killer of the 20th Century, automation will be that for the 21st Century. Machines don’t just build cars anymore. They can run complex algorithms and analyze data. Soon, they’ll be able to put that data into action.

Even those of us in the creative industry have a right to worry. Artificial intelligence can already create a nonsensical, terrifying Christmas song. It’s not hard to imagine a world where that applies to all sorts of creative work.

So…fuck.

But the one thing robots can’t do is feel.

Artificial intelligence and automation will continue to improve—exponentially. But what it won’t be able to do—at least not for a long time—is stuff like read a room. Sense a mood. Know when to not say something.

And that’s the crux of what Megan Beck and Barry Libert at the Harvard Business Review say will be workers’ value in the not-so-distant future.

Skills like persuasion, social understanding, and empathy are going to become differentiators as artificial intelligence and machine learning take over our other tasks.

These skills are already valuable. But they’re about to become competitive. If you can relate to other people, you’re in much better shape than your wallflower coworkers.

Pretty soon, you won’t be able to beat a robot. So you’d better start practicing to become a better human.

This kind of robotic takeover of work is still years off. But probably not that many years. I’m 33, and it won’t surprise me if bots start replacing workers en masse before my kids start college. Look how fast the internet replaced physical objects (banks, books, newspapers, CD collections).

That’s scary. But it helps to prepare. I’m no mental health professional, but here are some things I recommend:

  • Read anything by Brené Brown, but particularly Daring Greatly.
  • Practice empathy—there are a lot of good resources online.
  • If you have the means, see a counselor or therapist regularly. (It’s  one of the best things I’ve done in my life. Plus, this type of person can give you better suggestions than I can.)
  • Get off your phone and talk to strangers.

Even if you feel like the least emotionally intelligent person in a room, you’ll be surprised how fast you can start to work through the fog.

Photo: Unsplash

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