In times when technology was not as well-developed as current days, all work was manual. People contributed a lot of labor force to sustain their livelihoods. In the 21st century, machines are getting so much more advanced and widespread that they are even starting to replace humans jobs. Not only can they do the work faster, but also more precisely than human beings. Therefore, people need to improve their abilities on different aspects in order to keep themselves from being replaced by robots in this automation era. This essay will discuss the impact of technology on jobs and some essential skills humans required to remain employable in the 21st century. Firstly, I will discuss the current threats on jobs brought by automation. Secondly, I will talk about one of the most important factors to get rid of automation threats: creativity. Next, higher-level thinking skills and human literacy will be discussed in this order. Ultimately, some recommendations will be made. Overall, the world keeps changing, so does the technology. Human beings need to enhance and diversify their skills to keep their jobs safe from automations.
The impact of technology on jobs
The changes in technology have occurred rapidly, making us live in a world full of machines. As these machines are taking over heavy labour from human beings, people are able to reduce the burden from their work and drudgery (McAfee, 2013; Mahdawi, 2017). However, despite making people’s lives easier, there are also some negative consequences. According to Wolla (2018) and Mahdawi (2017), robots are designed to do routine and repetitive work, which means that people whose jobs include these elements are being threatened, and these people are highly likely to face unemployment. In addition, machines are given more and more functions today; they can hear, see, answer and write etc. (Aoun, 2017; McAfee, 2013). No one can guarantee what they will be capable of in the future. People’s jobs will only get more threats from these Artificial Intelligences. Kurzweil, an American futurist, predicted that in 10 years (2029) computer will achieve at the level that they are provided with “human intelligence” (Kurzweil, 2005, as cited in Makridakis, 2017). This refers to more and more jobs might be replaced by machines, even the ones we do not expect now. Therefore, there are several essential skills people needed to tackle the challenges brought by these machines.
First, from my own perspective, the most important skill that can set ourselves apart from machines is creativity. Creativity is a significant value possessed by human beings, which technology can not yet reach, and schools play an important role in shaping students’ creative mindsets. As stated in Binkely et al. (2011), “teachers need to create a social atmosphere in which children feel secure enough to play with ideas and to take risks” (p.38), meaning that creativity requires a long period of time developing, starting since people began to take education. In addition, there is no right or wrong about ‘ideas’. Instead, ideas are the elements that shape human beings into creative people, and those who have innovative ideas are able to bring higher values to the workplace (Aoun, 2017). Creative employees often come up with new ideas that can later apply to the project, which is what a machine cannot accomplish. Thus, employees who are valuable for the company are less likely to be substituted by robots. According to Aoun (2017), machines are currently able to give essay a mark, however, they are still not equipped with the ability to start with a “blank” paper and produce the whole new work themselves. To complete this task, the “human brain” is still the key factor to achieve it (p.50). These are the things that machines cannot complete on their own since they can only do what they have been set up for. Therefore, the workplace needs creative people to introduce new ideas and apply them to the work. As a result, being creative is one of the most important skills that can keep human jobs safe from automation.
Higher-level Thinking Skills
Another possibility to avoid being unemployed is to acquire higher-level thinking skills. Higher-level thinking skills for example, critical thinking, is mainly about being able to analyse data and apply them to the tasks efficiently (Aoun, 2017). According to Mendes (2017), people often think that critical thinking is merely an instinct due to the false idea that critical thinking is “human nature” rather than a practical skill. However, developing higher-order thinking skills is not as easy to access as people imagine. Having these skills requires a high level of focus and concentration, and the ability to reflect on tasks adeptly (Binkely et al., 2011). Technology in current days may be superior than humans to analyse data or information, however, they still lack the feature to apply these statistics to actual issues (Aoun, 2017). Higher-order thinkers will be able to bring appropriate solutions to the business (Mendes, 2017) as they can apply the data they analyse to resolve complex problems. People who are adept in this ability allows them to evaluate deep into their work then make decisions that will be profitable for the industry based on their analysis. Accordingly, having higher-level thinking skills is another important way to distinguish ourselves from automation.
The other reason that can enable human beings to defeat the threats brought by machines is one of the advantages of human beings—the ability to combine understanding and flexibility then apply them depending on different situations. This is called human literacy. As Aoun (2017) says, “human literacy will help us make the right choices” (p.61). This is because of the fact that machines are designed to do repetitive work, be flawless and constantly successful. If something goes wrong with the systems unexpectedly, machines cannot deal with the problems or determine whether it is right or wrong. Thus, often resulting in severe consequences. Human beings on the contrary, can distinguish different circumstances and make adjusts to different situations. This can make the losses reduce more than in the event of jobs are controlled by machines. Aoun also states that human literacy gives people the ability to cooperate with colleagues, and by engaging with others, people can not only learn or absorb knowledges but also bring the most suitable decisions to the workplace. Therefore, in order to not be replaced by robots, people also need to improve their ability on making the most accurate choices and their skills of communicating with others to raise their value.
As the growth of AI development keeps increasing, humans jobs are being more endangered. Even though automation is taking over quite a lot of human’s jobs presently, it does not mean that these jobs will be completely eliminated. Instead, employees will face new challenges from the results of redefine, and there will be more skills required at that time (Mahdawi, 2017; Wolla, 2018; Imel, 1994). As mentioned above, some of the major skills that humans required to remain employable in the 21st century are creativity, higher-level thinking skills and human literacy. I suggest that students choose double major when they enter university to improve these skills. They should choose a course that can help them fully exert their imaginations such as art or design. Another one could be commerce because commerce often requests the ability to think critically and make efficient strategies, which may be useful for improving both higher-level thinking skills and human literacy. People should diversify their ability as much as possible, not just limited in one specific area because the changes of jobs are unpredictable. We will not perfectly know what jobs will remain and what jobs will be replaced in the future. The best way to prevent being replaced is to enhance different aspects of skills, so when students enter the workplace, they will be prepared to keep pace with the changes of technology.
While the rapid change of technology has brought lots of conveniences to people’s lives, it has undoubtedly put some pressure into their lives as well, influencing their decisions on jobs. People are currently concerning about being replaced by robots and losing their jobs. However, they should not panic or surrender to automations; instead, they ought to broaden their capacity on different skills to make themselves sophisticated in a “highly automated professional workplace” (Aoun, 2017, p.53). The replacement will not just occur over one night, which means that people will have sufficient time to strengthen their abilities to confront the challenges. I believe with the efforts of improving the skills mentioned, employees in the 21st century will be able to keep their jobs safe from being taken over by machines.