For decades, workers have had to stay competitive with one another and with their counterparts in emerging markets worldwide. But very soon, many more of us will also be competing with robots, artificial intelligence, and all variety of smart machines.
Near-term estimates say robots could take five million jobs over the next few years, and as artificial intelligence matures the rate of job loss could accelerate considerably.
"The best research to date says that nearly 50 percent of our jobs will be automated, and that may be just the beginning because technology will continue to advance and get smarter," says Ed Hess, co-author of Humility Is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age.
Hess is among those who advise that a paradigm shift will be necessary, especially in the United States, to prepare the first generation that will be competing with both Ivy League-endorsed intelligence and artificial intelligence.
"The skill set we're going to need to compete with the smart robot--emotional intelligence; empathy; the ability to think critically, creatively, and innovatively; and to emotionally connect with others so we can effectively collaborate and work in teams--is the antithesis of what we're teaching our kids," says Hess. "In fact, our society has never been more lacking in it."
He says that parents, educators, and companies should be emphasizing the development of person-to-person skills that smart machines can't perform, like delivering personalized services, diagnosing and solving nonroutine problems, and relating on an emotional level.
For parents of Generation Z, this can mean resisting the urge to encourage children to compete and succeed by excelling beyond their peers, which has been the standard model in American society for generations. Instead, Hess says it will become increasingly important to foster humility, a love of learning, and an environment in which experimentation, trial and error, and failure are valued.
"Teach them to be curious, to learn something new every day, to read every day, to have the courage to try when failure is a possibility," says Hess. "All of these things require that you role-model them; don't just preach them."
This runs contrary to the way many businesses and educational institutions are set up today.
"There are many institutional, political, economic, and personal reasons why many of our public schools are stuck in the industrial revolution model of educating," says Hess. "They will have to change."
He added that transformation will also be necessary in the culture of businesses and the culture at large as well.
"The current system that pits American versus American will no longer work," says Hess. "We'll have to replace the 'Big Me' with the 'Big We' if we're to come together and deal with this new reality objectively."