Did LinkedIn replace recruiters or empower recruiters? It empowered them. It’s a good example of how automation will develop in the future. Successful companies will empower workers with automation not replace them.
Think of what professionals do in their jobs. Lawyers craft arguments for specific audiences: clients, opposing counsel, judges. Doctors bring together fuzzy empirical pattern-matching from experience and hard science. Teachers are experts in their fields but also understand how to tailor instruction to each student. Computers might be able to do one of these tasks, but software can’t combine them into expertise the way humans do.
Technology will not replace professionals. It will allow them to do even more.
We usually don’t worry about automation replacing these kinds of workers. We worry about lower skilled workers. When we think of skilled professions, we think of occupations like lawyer, doctor, teacher. But there’s a white-collar bias at work there. If you’ve ever watched a master carpenter, you’ve seen the same marriage of clinical and scientific practices that a doctor uses. Master plumbers make very important judgements about safety and usability. It is an error to believe that lower paying work is less skilled. Automation cannot replace trade workers.
What about low-level white-collar workers? Their jobs will morph from dreary typing and paper shuffling to tending digital workforces. Analyzing their work, conforming it to the needs of humans, and helping businesses keep track of everything. Companies might need fewer of such workers, but they’re not going away.
What about low-skill blue collar jobs? No one is outsourcing or automating garbage pickup. You’ll always need a person to make intelligent judgments about what can go the landfill and what can’t. And lest you think these workers are less important, just because they are paid less, remember that most people died of illnesses born of filthy conditions prior to the invention of modern sanitation. Your local trash guy saves more lives than your local doctor.
So, how will automation help us? It will free the lawyer from the drudgery of legal research. He can present the details of his case and automation can help locate the best information to build a case. Doctors will use vast connected databases to help spot epidemiological trends and tailor diagnoses. Teachers will be able to create custom materials for each student. Tradesmen will have systems that tell them details about the characteristics of materials and measurements, freeing them to make the human judgments that characterize superior craftsmanship. Low-skill workers will manage automations, and help companies tune them.
Successful automation businesses will empower workers not replace them.