EmTech NEXT: AI, Robotics and the Future of Work
Automation Angst: Can You Feel It Now?

Reimagining Work for an AI World: What Will It Really Take?


MIT's EmTech NEXT 2018 conference attracted an interesting mix of attendees prepared to learn about how AI and robotics are changing the future of work and asking--Are You Ready? 
From technologists, educators, and start-up teams to students, analysts, industry and government leaders, people came seeking answers, insights, and tips for ways to navigate and manage the disruption that advanced technologies will bring. 
Event speakers shared their ideas, experiences, and key learning (future blog posts will capture my conference takeaways); however, more questions than answers exist for grappling with the potential impacts and implications of smart machines and automation on society, industry, and institutions. 
If you're prepared to change, an abundance of opportunities exist for you to explore, discover, and upskill--even baby steps will do--as the future of AI, robotics and automation continues to be worked out. But sweet spots are only sweet spots if you act on them ahead of the curve. Now is the time to do so.
  • Do you work for a proactive, forward-looking employer who's prepared to leverage these advanced technologies coming down the pike? What is their strategy for retraining and upskilling the workforce? Do some digging to find out if you're working for an employer who has a plan for not being left behind (or leaving you behind). 
  • Thinking about changing jobs or are in the process of doing so? A tighter job market gives you some leverage in negotiating a training package that includes advanced technologies and soft skills training. Do your research. Come to the table with your asks and general costs associated with your requested training and be sure to share the benefits/ROI for the potential employer (WIFT)
  • Self-employed or operating a micro-business? You're pretty much on your own in funding your training and reskilling if you plan to remain competitive in this changing landscape. Do you partner with a recruiting agency?  Be sure to ask about their competitive training packages and whether they have any training arrangements with clients that you might be able to piggyback on. 
People tend to agree that things will change when advanced technologies really take hold across the board within the next 3-5 years. But where the greatest impacts will be is still up for grabs.
Reimagining Work for an AI World
Yes, there still may be lots of questions about how an accelerated rollout of AI and smart machines could impact you in the near future, but connect the dots where you are today and develop a plan to retrain and reskill in preparation for a shifting technology landscape. Reimagining is powerful when it's combined with focused action. 
  • Soft skills: Include communication abilities, language skills, likability, cognitive or emotional empathy, time management, teamwork, leadership traits.
  • Change skills: Flexible, adaptable, with an ability to “land on your feet” (reinventing in front of the curve) prepares you for whatever change comes down the pike--you'll be able to handle it. You may need to refresh your toolbox with task-related skills and culture pivots, but possessing these foundational change skills will serve you well. Change + soft skills are a winning formula for dealing with the disruptive elements of AI and robotics.
  • Collaboration (humans + robotics): Collaboration will require a hybrid approach as humans increasingly shift between communicating and team building with other humans while also working alongside robots. Amazon's Tye Brady shares the company’s experience with deploying autonomous robots alongside human employees.
Recommended Resources