Which of our skills will the future no longer need?


Does the future even need us?

Will technology automate our skills and careers into obsolescence?

The verdict is still out, but the debate is only getting louder. Innovations like robotics, genetic engineering and artificial intelligence are threatening to make humans an endangered species.

It may not happen in all of our lifetimes, but it’s a good idea to assume that it will to some degree. That the singularity really is nigh.

I read one study from a youth education foundation finding that nearly sixty percent of young people are studying and training for occupations for which most of the jobs will be automated in ten years. What a waste!

And so, here’s the question we should regularly ask ourselves:

Which of our skills will the future no longer need?

Ever since the industrial revolution, workers have confronted this very dilemma. People have been trying to future proof their careers for centuries. After all, this is their livelihood we’re talking about here.

Personally, that question around the threat of extinction lights a fire under my ass. It’s humbling in the best possible way. It pushes me to evolve and expand my talent stack in ways that will be attractive and valuable to people who aren’t even born yet.

This topic was on my mind recently when our startup met a few automation vendors. One was an email marketing specialist. He did a demo of his new outbound sales software that essentially does in an hour what would take me a year.

For only fifty bucks a month, we wouldn’t have to hire a team member to manage the email function, just allow the software do its thing, check in each morning and evening, and wait for our inboxes to flood with prospects. Holy subject line!

The other vendor my startup interviewed showed us the new brand of dynamic search ads. They’re so intuitive with responsive features, they’re essentially replacing marketing copywriters. Who cares if you’re clever with a turn a phrase? All this algorithm needs is a few keywords to build a message with the highest probability of success.

Ultimately, every profession has its obsoletions. And our challenge is to figure how technology becomes a complement, not a threat, to our talents.

Because in many cases, we don’t have to view innovations as replacements for our genius, but tools that can free us up to do more interesting work.

Now that our cognitive demand is lower, perhaps there’s something deeper and more valuable that we can offer the world. Creating value and filling in the gaps where the machines can’t.

Here’s a quick case study. When I built Prolific, the reasoning behind it was, we now live in a world where anyone struggling with writer’s block can learn every tip, trick, hack and secret known to man, within seconds, for free, to come up with new ideas.

But that’s not my expertise. I’m no longer in the business of helping people make longer lists.

The value of my product is, people who make things for a living can access a proven framework for preventing creative emergencies, rather than using fire extinguisher to put out the flames.

My product’s more sophisticated. The software shows you how to become the kind of person who doesn’t have to chase inspiration around town, waiting for it to settle. Instead, you forge everyday disciplines that contribute to the sheer accumulation of material.

I’m not in the business of giving people fish.

I’m not even in the business of teaching them how to fish.

I’m giving people the tools to build their own lake.

Now that’s a skill the future needs.

What if technology freed your brain up to do more interesting work that had a bigger impact on the world?