creativity and empathy do not guarantee a job

We know that artificial intelligence (AI) will have a huge impact on the labor market. We still secretly hope that the jobs that require human qualities will continue to exist. Think about functions that require intelligence, creativity and empathy.

World-renowned futurist Yuval Noah Harari skillfully dashed this hope at the Future Focused Leadership meeting in Amsterdam. The skills that we value as uniquely human can also be automated quite easily.

Intelligence is overrated

We value intellectual skills more than emotional and social skills. Only the skills that we look down on are much harder to automate, Harari begins.

For years, chess has been hailed as a great achievement for the human intellect. Meanwhile, the computer beats the world chess champion without much effort. But a robot cannot pick up dirty dishes from a restaurant and wash them.’

It is much easier to automate the work of doctors than nurses

“If you look at doctors’ salaries, they are valued more by society than nurses. But it is much easier to automate the work of doctors than nurses.’

Gathering medical information, making a diagnosis and recommending treatment are tasks based on pattern recognition. And this is something AI can do better than humans, he explains.

For nurses, it’s a different story. They associate people with pain, give injections to crying children, says Harari. ‘AI is still a long way from that, especially in terms of the motor and social skills required for such tasks.’

Computers understand emotions better

Creativity is not that unique to humans either, he continues. “Computers are already much more creative than humans in chess. This also applies to many other things, such as designing clothes and composing music. If creativity means recognizing patterns and then breaking them, computers will be more creative than humans in many areas.’

We are unmatched in empathy, aren’t we? “It just depends on what we mean by empathy. If it is correct to recognize human emotions and respond correctly to them, then computers will surpass us.’

When you come home from work grumpy, your smart home knows it

AI does not have its own emotions, but it can learn to recognize them in humans. The facial expression, the voice, the body language, these are all recognizable patterns of human emotions.

“Other people sometimes do not understand how we feel. Why? Because they are too busy with their own emotions. Computers will surpass humans in this precisely because they are not disturbed by their own emotions.’

Read more: What is our superpower in an age full of AI

When you come home from work grumpy, your partner might not notice, but your smart home does. The lights dim, the music starts playing, the fridge serves something delicious. What does this do to human relationships? What happens when your fridge is more attuned to your emotions than your partner?’

Intelligence is not yet consciousness

Harari emphasizes that we should not confuse intelligence with consciousness. ‘Intelligence is the ability to solve problems. Consciousness is the ability to feel things, such as love, pain, pleasure. Intelligence is dependent on consciousness.’

‘Policemen, bankers, artists rely on their emotions to solve a lot of problems. Computers are different, they solve problems in a completely different way than humans.’

Great progress has been made in developing computational intelligence in the past seventy years, but no progress has been made in computational consciousness, Harari says.

We cannot automate friends or politicians

“Computers in 2022 are no more conscious than they were in 1952. Nor is there any indication that they are on the way to developing consciousness. Computers can become much more intelligent than we are without even having to develop feelings for it.’

What is the job of the future?

AI is still in its infancy, its potential far from being reached. What does this mean for us in the future labor market? It is not easy to predict, because it depends on what we want, replies Harari.

“Do we want a problem solved for us? How do we get from A to B safely? It’s easy to automate. When we look at friendship, love or trust, we want a device that can feel.’

Read more: This is the HR job of the future

‘Relationships, whether with friends or politicians, are based much more on consciousness, on emotion rather than on intelligence. That’s why we can’t automate friends or politicians’.

“We are also not interested in driving robots at the Olympics. Sports are about building a relationship between fans and athletes. It is precisely the human weaknesses that make athletes recognizable and accessible to us.’

Who or what do you choose for a marriage

‘The priest’s job is also very easy to automate. The robot only needs to read the texts, learn the movements, print certificates and update the register. But how would you feel if a robot did your wedding ceremony?’

Why should a driver be more afraid of his job than a pastor?

“Technically, it is much easier for a robot to perform a wedding ceremony than to let a car drive autonomously. Why should a driver be more afraid of his job than a pastor? That is why it is so difficult to predict which jobs will remain and which new jobs will arise’.

It is clear that the labor market of the future will be very unstable. According to Harari, the lack of jobs is not the problem, but the constant adaptation and training for something different or new.

‘Who is going to financially support the people who lose their jobs and have to learn new skills in the meantime? We will encounter not only economic problems, but much greater psychological problems.’

Trucker becomes a yoga teacher

It is very difficult to keep reinventing and retraining yourself, he continues. ‘Think of a 40-year-old truck driver who loses his job to a self-driving truck and needs to retrain to become a yoga teacher or virtual T-shirt designer. Although he is training for a new job, it is still only a temporary solution. ‘

Mental toughness will be the most important skill of the 21st century

The labor market will experience an increasing influence from the development of artificial intelligence. If it’s not so bad in 2025, the further into the future the bigger the changes. ‘Who will still have work in 2050: those who can adapt and can change.’

People won’t disappear from any sector, Harari expects, but what they do there will be very different. Moreover, these new jobs will only change faster and disappear.

Huge mental stress

‘So people don’t have to invent and train themselves once, but many, many times, otherwise they make themselves redundant. It creates enormous psychological stress.’ To survive and thrive in the second half of the 21st century, the most important skill you need is mental toughness.

The mental flexibility to change again and again, to start from scratch, to unlearn and re-learn things without collapsing. “For every dollar and time we spend on artificial intelligence, we should spend the same on developing and researching the human mind.”

Read more: This is how decision-makers think about the work of the future

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