The Robots are Coming

A casual discussion about the automation of work and the decreasing relevance of humans to productivity.

Why We Will Always Need Humans

July 25, 2015

Here’s a phenomenal article adapted from an upcoming book: Humans Are Underrated. The article (and, presumably, the book) seeks an answer to this question:

What are the activities that we humans, driven by our deepest nature or by the realities of daily life, will simply insist be performed by other humans, even if computers could do them?

It maintains there are three of them:

  1. “roles for which we demand that a specific person or persons be accountable [...] the social necessity that individuals be accountable for important decisions”
  2. “humans rather than computers will have to solve some problems for purely practical reasons [...] in real life, and especially in organizational life, we keep changing our conception of what the problem is and what our goals are. Those are issues that people must work out for themselves, and, critically, they must do it in groups”
  3. “tasks that we must do with or for other humans, not machines, simply because our most essential human nature demands it, for reasons too deep even to be articulated. We are social beings, hardwired from our evolutionary past to equate personal relationships with survival”

This boils down to a common core philosophy—these three things point to a need for “human-ness” in some roles, in a way that a computer could never provide.

To look into someone’s eyes—that turns out to be, metaphorically and quite often literally, the key to high-value work in the coming economy.

Jobs that require a human touch are ones that can’t easily be done away with by technology.

[...] transaction jobs (bank teller, checkout clerk) decreased by 700,000 in the U.S., and production jobs decreased by 2.7 million. But jobs of human interaction—doctors and teachers, for example—increased by 4.8 million.

This is a great quote:

[...] the meaning of great performance has changed. It used to be that you had to be good at being machine-like. Now, increasingly, you have to be good at being a person. Great performance requires us to be intensely human beings.