How to Make Sure You Do Not Lose Your Job to a Robot

A recent Washington Post article wants to prepare us for the possiblity that, in a mere decade, our current jobs might be performed by robots.

“So if intelligent machines can take over many of the jobs of today, what can you do to ensure your job prospects in the future?” the Washington Post asks.

I have a few ideas.

1. Stay away from Australia

The WaPo article lets us know that “In Australia, there are reports that up to half a million existing jobs could be taken over by robotics or machines run by artificial intelligence.”

Solution? Stay out of Australia.

Even if you’re in Australia, you might still be okay. Google gives Australia’s current population as 23.13 million, and a decade from now the population might grow to… um… more than that. You essentially have a 23.5 million out of 24 million chance of not being replaced by a robot.

2. Build the next hugely popular social networking site

The WaPo tells us that people “who can design virtual environments and experiences that allow people to get things done and perhaps have some fun” will not be replaced by robots.

They follow up with “This is what the minds behind Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, Wikipedia, Twitter, eBay, LinkedIn, Pinterest, WordPress and MSN have done.”

So all you have to do is build the next Google, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, or, I guess, MSN. Luckily, you can do that at home from your 11-inch MacBook Air, no problem. Let me know when you’ve built the next LinkedIn, because I’ve heard that nobody likes the current one.

3. Have better ethics than a robot

The WaPo writes that ethics are going to be in high demand, and that robots might not have the ethics we need to solve the complicated problems of the future, like “should we program robots to make unethical decisions so that we can maintain superiority over them and keep our jobs.”

I feel that robots would, in general, be more ethical than humans. They wouldn’t be subject to emotion-driven missteps like lying to someone to get $50. And then I remember Star Trek: The Next Generation. Who was the captain? It wasn’t Data. Even he couldn’t top the ethical sensitivity and nuance displayed by Jean-Luc Picard.

4. Be the most amazing person ever

Following the idea that “I guess you won’t be replaced by a robot if you’re as cool as Captain Picard,” let me quote some WaPo advice in full:

Be a multi-disciplinary, insatiably curious person who knows how to use the tools to model ideas and create prototypes.

Possessed of an open mind and few fixed ideas about how things should be done, you nonetheless have a strong conscience and can operate outside of your comfort zone to achieve win-win outcomes. You are known for your integrity and resilience.

All of these qualities can be cultivated or perhaps rediscovered, since children often exhibit them in abundance. They have always been the way for creative, high-achieving people and they are still the way today and into the future.

When I think of children, I think of “people who operate outside of their comfort zone to achieve win-win outcomes.” That aside, the message is clear: be amazing, or be prepared to teach a robot how to do your job.

5. Have a career that involves critical thinking or physical activity (but not the kind of critical thinking or physical activity that a robot can do)

The WaPo lists a bunch of jobs, from web designer to nurse to bricklayer, which they predict are unlikely to be performed by robots.

Some of those jobs seem a little suspect — for example, I could totally see the intake part of a standard doctor’s appointment being replaced by a machine that takes your temperature, weighs you, gives you a quick vision and hearing test, holds out the blood pressure cuff, etc. — but the point is made. If you have a job that requires a lot of critical or hands-on work, you might not be replaced by a robot.

At least in the next decade, anyway.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.