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The economy is changing at a rapid pace.
As has been well-documented, workers are facing dramatic changes in how their careers are shaped. No longer do most people graduate from college and find a 30-year career with the same company. Although such jobs may still exist, more and more people are turning to the virtual economy. And, with the advent of automated workflows and artificial intelligence, even the booming freelance economy is starting to feel the squeeze. Administrative tasks, formerly done by virtual assistants, are now being done by APIs and algorithms. This type of technology is here to stay, and the prudent worker must develop a strategy for staying professionally viable.
In this post, I’ll share tips for competing with robots. (Seriously.)
Manufacturing facilities have used robots for many years. The concept is simple: program non-human devices to do things that humans can do. From lifting and mounting a wheel onto a chassis to filling yogurt cups, robots have been displacing humans on the assembly line for decades.
The same principle is now being applied to services.
Here’s a perfect example. Let’s say that a company uses a particular project management software app to track tasks and milestones. Just a few years ago, the company would have had an administrative assistant routinely review completed task reports, manually assign follow-up tasks, and reformulate the productivity data into a digestible format. Today, with the advent of tools like the Zapier platform (my personal favorite), companies can connect their project management systems to their online spreadsheets and data modeling tools, thereby eliminating much of the work that was done by administrative assistants.
This phenomenon is not only isolated to administrative tasks. I have seen clients automate a variety of responsibilities, including from IT, accounting, finance, marketing, and HR.
The natural question clearly becomes: how does one compete with such automation?
It is a daunting task, especially when you consider the accuracy in which robots can execute their assigned duties. Robots never go to sleep, they don’t make errors, they don’t require paid time off, and they don’t have bad moods. On the flip side, even artificial intelligence pales in comparison to the God-given talents infused into the human body and mind.
Therefore, I would recommend that all freelancers, employees, and workers of any kind (myself included), continuously seek ways to do the following:
Our Heavenly Father made us humans to be distinctive from all other creatures. In particular, he gave us the ability to reason and use freewill. Therefore, as you look to compete with artificial intelligence, seek out work that requires you to use those talents to the fullest extent. A robotic computer may be able to crunch billions of numbers, but it will never compete with your keen sensibilities and life experiences.
Can a robot manage a marketing team of 50 members and deliver results? Can a robot talk to an angry customer and make him feel good about his decision to keep paying for services? Can a robot give comfort to an upset employee?
Obviously, robots cannot do these things.
Therefore, the ability to offer intangible human value will always be important.
Artificial intelligence is only getting smarter. Although your brain may not be able to recall a thousand different data points instantaneously, it is able to do a lot of things that are quite amazing. This is especially true if you develop a continuous learning program for yourself (and stick to it).
Identify your weaknesses and set goals for improvement through learning.
At the end of the day, people want to be around other people. Robots are cold, impersonal, and, well, robotic. Make it a habit to smile, be courteous, and show people that you care.
If you do this, people will naturally gravitate toward you.