Job Skills That Will Keep You Ahead of Automation

Good news, tech pros: automation might not affect your job after all.

A new report from McKinsey Global Institute suggests that tech pros could actually see an increase in jobs over the next decade or so, even as automation erodes the need for humans to perform various kinds of labor. While some technology-centric tasks could end up in automation’s cross-hairs—most notably data collection and processing—many technology jobs require a good deal of creativity and intuition, which are still the providence of humans (at least for now).

Jobs in “unpredictable environments” are also more immune from automation, which is good news not only for professions such as first responders and machine-repair workers, but also developers and other tech pros who must respond to market and customer needs on an expedited basis. Just ask a machine-learning algorithm to quickly adjust a game like “Battlefield II” in response to aggressive, angry fan feedback!

“Workers of the future will spend more time on activities that machines are less capable of, such as managing people, applying expertise, and communicating with others,” the report added. “The skills and capabilities required will also shift, requiring more social and emotional skills and more advanced cognitive capabilities, such as logical reasoning and creativity.”

But that doesn’t mean developers should become complacent about their carbon-based abilities. Advances in artificial intelligence (A.I.) have reached the point where software can design software. The most prominent example of this, Google’s AutoML project, automates the design of machine-learning models. Google researchers recently unleashed AutoML on the ImageNet image classification and COCO object detection datasets—“two of the most respected large scale academic datasets in computer vision,” according to the Google Research Blog—and found that the resulting machine-learning architecture, dubbed “NASNET,” could predict images with 82.7 percent.

Over the next several years, this increasing sophistication could allow machines to absorb more tasks normally delegated to humans, including logical reasoning. Nonetheless, McKinsey still feels that “with sufficient economic growth, innovation, and investment, there can be enough new job creation to offset the impact of automation.” That will require tech pros to constantly evolve their professional abilities—and refine their “soft skills” such as management and communication.

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