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High quality relationships can't be automated

You’ve undoubtedly read the headlines and heard the warnings about the onslaught of robots and artificial intelligence that are coming to take all of our jobs.

To help workers find their way through this “hysteria”, my colleague and I developed a framework for considering which jobs are most vulnerable to automation. Certainly, there are jobs that are under threat; but what’s often lost in the headlines is that there are a number of jobs that may not be as vulnerable as we think, particularly when focusing on the value – a sense of worth or usefulness – that jobs provide to an end user.

Perhaps not surprisingly, jobs that provide that value through a relational component fall into the less threatened areas of our framework (think: childcare worker, physician’s assistant, UX designer). A similar argument is made by Kai-Fu Lee, who, summarizing his book AI Super Powers, writes “AI may replace routine jobs, but it will never be able to replace compassionate jobs.” Other recent work calls attention to additional ways in which relational dimensions may sustain traditional organizational forms: for example, Amy Wrzesniewski suggests that new age “gig work” is becoming less desirable because workers cannot fulfill the sense of belonging that is so core to traditional organizational membership.

No matter the level of sophistication or cost efficiencies offered by technology, it is nearly inarguable that humans will always be able to provide a more genuine sense of support, mutuality, and empathy than a robot or artificially intelligent computer.

The short story: high quality connecting will become even more integral to individual and organizational functioning as the “future of work” unfolds.

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