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Automation And Emotion

Are people really developing skills that won’t be automated?

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In the final season of the popular series 'Person of Interest' the central character of the show, a supercomputer called 'the machine' plays out several possible scenarios and outcomes for a developing situation. It uses complex algorithms but fails miserably because there is no one good outcome. Ultimately human decision becomes necessary.

Industry 4.0 is no longer a speculation but a reality. With the rapid technological development, many jobs are being automated. Studies show that 69 per cent of office work will be replaced by AI and similar new-age technology by 2024. At least 375 million people will be displaced globally and will need to change their occupation and/or acquire new skills.  

The traditional methods of working have changed and the human workforce is rapidly being replaced by machines. In India, a well-known automobile manufacturing company planted one machine for every 4 workers. They have installed 5000 machines so far, thus replacing over 20,000 workers.  

With a severe job crunch in the market today, automated jobs come as grim news for many people. But on the other side, it also creates new opportunities for people. Jobs that are creative and cognitive in nature are not likely to be replaced by automation in the future. While automation can help make decisions, it cannot replace jobs that require critical thinking, intuitive decision-making or innovation and creativity. If looked through a different perspective, only certain characteristics of these jobs are being replaced. For example, while stores are being replaced by online delivery services, there is a requirement for delivery personnel to ensure that the products reach the right place.  

Machines, unlike humans, cannot plan or bring an emotional touch to the everyday routine. A machine can teach you and give information, but we still require teachers to tailor the information for better understanding. Machines can diagnose illness, however, a doctor is required to explain the treatment and provide a prescription. The machine can only provide data, but we need a human to provide the emotional touch to digest the data. 

Emotion and empathy play a big role when it comes to interacting with other people. Jobs that require human interaction, such as nursing, bartending, counselling, cannot be automated. As per a study, less than 30 per cent of nurse’s jobs can be automated and the number is unlikely to change in the future. Similarly, a counsellor requires empathy and emotions to interact with their clients, a feat that will be difficult to achieve with machines. Another example is call centres. It is easier to connect with and interact with a human than a bot on a chatbox.  

The IT sector too employs nearly 4.1 million people and the focus is on new technology skills. There is a greater need for mid to senior-level jobs especially since most junior-level jobs are automated. Upskilling and reskilling employees is the answer here. 

Creative thinking, planning and analysing, critical thinking, and effective communication are more important in today’s market. Surveys indicate that 93 per cent of employers want employees who have good communication skills, are adaptable and can think critically over those with superior academic records. Organisations can get intelligent machines, but emulating soft skills in them is not possible.  

Preventing the automation of labour is impossible. However, this change should be taken as not a replacement but an extension. People require a skill makeover to get an edge over robots. With the correct training and L&D techniques, this can be a boon for the workforce. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house



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