The era of specialization is over. The future world of work will require the same type of skills that made the Renaissance Men of old so successful.
According to a report recently published by the McKinsey Consulting Group, about half of all the activities done at work could potentially be automated with current levels of technology. And the trend is accelerating.
Robots are becoming more mainstream, machine learning is creating more and more powerful algorithms, and cars are starting to drive themselves. It will still take some time before these technologies mature, but the trend has been set.
This means that you will have to adapt.
The jobs that are at risk are not just lowly menial jobs, but also more high-level jobs like lawyers, bankers, or even journalists.
There are bots that are scanning documents and drafting contracts, algorithms that trade stocks, and even articles in newspapers generated by computer programs.
People don’t really agree on what this trend will mean for the world of work. Some are predicting massive unemployment due to technology, while others are saying that the jobs will just be shifted into other types of jobs and new ways of working will be required to get ahead.
However one thing stays constant. Since the world of work will change, you will need to adapt to it. What do you need to do in order to thrive in this brave new world?
The answer is quite simple. You just have to look back in history in order to get it.
Different skills will be needed to tackle the challenges arising from a world where artificial intelligence and robots will take over many of the things that are done by humans today. The skills and attributes that humans need for this type of world are exactly the same ones that the Renaissance Men of ancient times had.
The expert-generalist is making a comeback. There will still be a place for specialists (and some of them will be quite key), however many specialist jobs will disappear to be replaced by automation. Machines are much better at crunching big data, and doing it fast. They are also much better at routine, repetitive tasks.
People holding these types of jobs will need to look elsewhere.
What do you need to do?
In order to analyze what you need to do, let’s try to use your higher level thinking skills and one technique (going back to first principles) that you have in your mental toolset.
Going back to first principles implies starting from basic assumptions and then reasoning up from there.
One basic assumption that is made about the world of the future is that change will be rapid, new trends and ways of doing things will come and go. What does this imply?
It will no longer suffice to learn one thing and then rely on it for the rest of your life. In order to thrive in this type of world, you will need to be adaptable and constantly be learning new things.
Technology will change and that one skill could become obsolete. This will require you to be constantly educating yourself and updating your skills and knowledge.
Another basic assumption being made is that the menial, repetitive work will be automated. Many of the specialist positions will disappear. What does this imply?
This means that the type of skills that you should have are ones that add value and are inter-disciplinary.
What will rise in importance is adaptability, higher level thinking skills, making connections between disparate fields, and human skills. Systems thinkers will thrive in this type of environment.