As we hurtle toward the 2020s, what once sounded so futuristic is right around the corner. The gig economy, self-driving cars, and robots automating unskilled jobs are here to stay. Every day, the way we live is moving toward profound and irreversible change. Many industries and professions are going the way of the horse and buggy, as new technology makes them obsolete. So how can you prepare yourself for this quickly approaching future?
In spite of all our technological advances, here are eight things robots still can’t do well.
Copywriting and content creation
Robots are terrible at writing more than very basic sentences like a human. And information accessible to humanity is expanding as never before. Put these two facts together, and you have a vastly growing body of knowledge that needs to be written by a real person, particularly online. As the internet evolves and changes, more and more businesses seek to use professional writing services to bring traffic to their sites. And the talented writer may well prefer the relative stability of freelancing article creation over trying to gain traction in self-publishing longer volumes. Those who can write well are also in demand in law, politics, academia, marketing, and journalism.
A robot can’t know just what shade of purple evokes a feeling of royalty, or how the eye will interpret a set of letters artistically merged together. It doesn’t know which building will be perceived as interesting, intimidating, or inspiring. It can’t tell you how to get the feeling of serenity from a melody. Although digital art software is capable of facilitating amazing things in 2019, it still can’t deliver a finished product that will have an impact on the viewer’s memory and emotion. Graphic designers will continue to be needed, as well as songwriters, designers, and architects. And of course, we couldn’t express the human condition without fine arts.
How would you like to lay back on a couch in a soothing room and describe your most vexing problems to an attentive, caring robot? To most, it would be unthinkable to use robots for things that require human thought and feeling, like psychotherapy or philosophy. Anything that deals with mental health and the human person, from clergy to behavioral therapy, will have to be done by human people. Robots can interpret vast swaths of data to tell us what is and isn’t getting desired results, with useful applications in fields like government and economics, but they can’t tell us who we are or where we want to go. It’s up to our fellow humans to assist each other on that journey.
Sales and customer service
The best person to sell you a product is someone you know. Because sales is an inherently persuasive field, rapport and trust in the salesperson’s intent and expertise are essential. Online bots can sift through data to decipher what kinds of things you like and perhaps even what type of marketing is most compelling to you, but they still cannot imitate the face to face relational value of having a trusted advisor give his or her recommendation. Many companies are shifting to more automation of their services, directing customers to a website or a phone menu, but there will always be a need for a specialized team of concierge services to help customers with more complex sales or service needs that may not be easily resolved.
Whether you’re getting a routine checkup or living out your last days in hospice care, you need a human touch for hands-on medical work. Great advances have been made for robotic assisted medical procedures, but no hardware can replace the day to day work of physically evaluating patients and assisting them with their unique and personal medical requirements. Even when robotics can supplement diagnostics and treatments, we will still need skilled medical practitioners to handle the human components of caring for people’s medical needs.
Making, enforcing, interpreting, and arguing the rules by which we govern ourselves is beyond the reach of machine capabilities. Just as robotics cannot create art to express the human condition, so also they cannot create the language of laws. They also don’t have the sophistication to argue for application of a given law based on history, case law analogies, and interpretation of old rules based on current technology and social mores. This is because law is about language, which differentiates humans from anything else. We also need a human element of judgment and discernment that can’t be replaced by machines. So don’t expect your court system or city council to be replaced by robots anytime soon.
Electronics and mechanical repair and quality control
All machines break eventually. Except in high level applications, it just isn’t cost effective to have machines diagnose and repair other machines, because the repair machines would need to have such broad knowledge of working parts of different devices to be worth the investment, as well as a broad array of tools to repair those devices, as well as an interface for determining which problem is the priority. For instance, a phone repair vending machine would need parts for every phone in stock, and the ability to diagnose the issues, and the motor skills to carry out the repair. The moving parts required get even bigger and more complicated when it comes to repairing large machinery such as vehicles and manufacturing implements. The space and dexterity required would be cost prohibitive. So, for now, machines will still need people to repair them.
There’s a reason that even in futuristic dystopias like Hunger Games or Fahrenheit 451, entertainment is still performed by humans, not machines. Since before the days of the Roman gladiators, humans have been enthralled by stories of our triumph and tragedy, people who beat the odds and those who failed despite the best preparation. Athletes enact these narratives through their sport, actors engross us in their tales by effectively becoming the characters they portray, and musicians evoke the exclusively human emotions behind these stories. In fact, we ban performance enhancing modifications of the body in most of our athletic competitions to ensure that they remain uniquely human. What does it mean to win a game if you had to take something artificial to achieve it? Machines struggle to understand the concept of the person, let alone the layered tapestry of our inner emotional world played out over the course of a journey or experience.
Jobs of the future that require the human mind, human creation, human dexterity, or a human body are likely to be staffed by humans until technology has advanced beyond what we can currently conceive. We simply haven’t developed an effective way to replace ourselves in much of what we do. A Wall∙E type world, where humans can float around constantly consuming pleasure while machines do all the work, is not foreseeable within our lifetimes. So if you are headed into a career in content creation, art creation, humanities, sales, medicine, law, repairs, or entertainment, there might be plenty of competition, but at least you can be sure that a robot won’t be taking your job anytime soon.