“Technology Will Replace Many Doctors, Lawyers, And Other Professionals” was the dramatic title of a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article published in October 2016.
To some, the heading was shocking and even worrying. To others, its hard to believe.
Normally new technology is associated with the loss of jobs at the menial level. It is the routine jobs that will give way to automation. Knowledge workers (aka Professionals) should remain relatively safe. After all, the jobs that these professionals perform require judgement, creativity and empathy. Things machines cannot do. That’s what we believe anyway.
But is this true? Are machines capable of replacing jobs that require skilled judgement, creativity and empathy?
Well, it turns out there are 2 reasons why this is true:
Reason 1: Professional Work Actually Does Not Require Much Judgement, Creativity And Empathy
The authors of the HBR article found in their research that “when professional work is broken down into its component parts, many of the tasks involved are routine and process-based. They do not in fact call for judgement, creativity, or empathy”.
When you pause to think about what the authors are saying, it does not sound too far fetched. When you go and see a Doctor at the clinic, what does the Doctor do? The process of examining the patient and then prescribing medication is routine.
Lawyers follow the law, rules and precedents. Accountants have their own standard rules and practices which they adhere to. And how many doctors, accountants or lawyers do you know of that are empathetic?
Reason 2: Machines Do Not Need To Think Like A Professional To Outdo A Professional
The authors also dispel another myth. That in order for machines to perform like humans, they have to mimic the human thinking process. That would be very difficult, if not impossible to do. But the fact of the matter is that machines are already outperforming humans without having to think like humans.
These “unthinking” machines, just based on sheer brute force, are better at predicting court outcomes than human lawyers; beat chess grand masters at their game; give more accurate diagnosis than the most experienced doctors.
And how many of us, until recently, did not believe that driving a car could be automated because it required human judgement?
The authors, a father and son team, Richard and Daniel Susskind have also written a more comprehensive book on the subject.
Another well-known economist, Tyler Cowen, also predicted something similar. In fact, he believes that technology is the main reason why salaries have been stagnant for years. If you are competing against a machine in your job, you will be in trouble. Instead, you need to complement or work with the machine.
So it seems many prized jobs will be terminated with the Rise Of The Machines (pardon the reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie, couldn’t help it). By some estimates, 30% of corporate jobs today will vanish in the future.
Sounds frightening…its like being targeted by the Terminator!
What are we to do? Will we survive?
As I look back at my life, I think I have an answer.
One of the major turning points was 15 years ago when I left the comfort and stability of academia to enter the wild, wild world of the freelancer. Well it was wild to me at least.
There were the usual doubts and fears. But looking back, that was one of the best decisions I have made in my life. I learnt many things on that journey. I learnt that change can mean better opportunities, if we are willing to let go of what we currently have. I learnt that confronting the brutal facts of our reality can be extremely liberating! It can result in a higher level success and happiness. More of my story in another post.
Now I, along with you, am confronted with another major shift. Because I too am a Professional. Right now, my stomach feels like I am on a roller coaster. Its the emotion of fright, yet mixed with a sense of exhilaration. Could this mean even greater opportunities?
I believe so. If you look at history, this has always been the case. In any change, there tends to be losers unfortunately. But there are also winners. I intend to emerge as one of the winners.
Why Am I Writing This Blog?
In this blog, I will write about the emerging trends that are threatening to turn our world upside down. And how to capitalize on new opportunities that are emerging at the same time.
If you are a Professional and concerned about the future and your job security, you’ve come to the right place.
If you are a Professional in the corporate world and want to know what is going on out there so you can do your job better…I have something to offer you too.
If you are a small business owner or freelancer like myself, I have a lot to share with you.
Because if you journey with me on this blog, I will share with you my past experiences; my insights; what I am currently seeing and learning; and some of the strategies and tools we need to not only survive, but to to thrive in such turbulent times.
The question that you and I need to ask is “Am I competing against a machine?” “If so, what do I need to do about it?”
See you in the next post!