Some experts worry that artificial intelligence is going to take all our jobs. Others reassure the worried that as many new jobs will be created by tech advances as will be destroyed. But whichever side of this debate you find more convincing, one thing is for certain -- a revolution is coming to the nature of work.
Just how momentous will this shift be? Consider a report out of no less an august institution that Oxford University, which predicts that nearly half of all jobs (47 percent to be exact) will be lost in the next 25 years. Yes, half.
"No government is prepared," claims The Economist's write-up of the research.
But while governments may be floundering in the face of such profound change, your family need not be equally unprepared. That's according to Dave and Helen Edwards, co-founders of artificial intelligence research firm Intelligenstia.ai, who used a recent Quartz post to explain which skills are least likely to be automated -- and what parents should do to help their kids acquire them. Their answer isn't what you're expecting.
The one skill that robots will never master
To figure out how to future-proof children's employability, the Edwards's took a clever approach -- rather than try to guess exactly which skills will be in demand in a decade or two, they analyzed which jobs categories seem least likely to be taken over by machines. What are the skills that a robot will never master?
This work yielded a number of different "clusters" of jobs, such as those that work intimately with other people (psychologists, social workers) and those that handle bugs in complex systems (epidemiologists). If you're interested in the nitty-gritty details, check out the complete post, but the most interesting finding wasn't that there are a handful of hard-to-automate gigs out there (we all knew that already), but that these gigs all require the same underlying skill.
"We found one common factor in these clusters: unpredictability. Where the job requires people to deal with lots of unpredictable things and messiness-unpredictable people, unknown environments, highly complex and evolving situations, ambiguous data-people will stay ahead of robots," they write. So, in short, if you want to give your kid the best shot at success, you should encourage them to get really comfortable with unpredictability.
The ability to deal with the real world is becoming rare.
How do you do that exactly? The Edwards's offer a counterintuitive answer -- unplug your kids. (Yes, there will probably be howls of protest.)
While learning tech skills is certainly valuable, if your really want to future-proof your kid's employment prospects, you need to make sure they spend plenty of time away from their gadgets and interacting with the messy and unpredictable real world.
"We need to remove the digital filter and experience the people and physical world around us," they insist. "As AI pervades more of our physical world experience, AI determines how we interact and learn, offering us less experience in the physical world. That thereby reduces our skills in dealing with, say, quirky individuals or novel engineering challenges or rapidly evolving biological systems for which there are no data for an AI to use."
"Virtual experiences have their limit. At some point, things need to happen in the physical world, with in-person interaction. These are the skills that an AI won't be able to beat us at," they conclude. Those are also the skills you want your kid to have.