The Future of Work is Not About Robots, It's About Creativity

By John M. Eger | Posted 3/15/22

This past governors' election there was considerable debate over education. In Virginia it was about something called "critical race theory." Elsewhere it ranged from debates over free college, charter schools, or the power of teacher strikes. Political pundits say education promises to play a vital role in all future elections. Sadly, the debates were not about art or art infusion. They were not about creativity.

Unless the debates focus on "whole brain" thinking skills, about the importance of creativity, the machines win.

Dan Schawbel, author of Back to Human, in an AARP Bulletin, found that "Companies will more than likely invest in automation technologies to limit their future exposure. And more firms will get comfortable with using video interviews technology" … "after realizing the cost saving, efficacy and reach." … (and) "Instead of on-site training, there will be more webinars and virtual experiences, in addition, access to online training courses."

Alexandra Ossola in the Quartz Newsletter added that "While the coronavirus crisis has been distinctly not great for humans, it's already been a boon for robots. As humans have stayed home to slow the spread of the disease, robots have entered our lives in novel ways, from delivering groceries to taking over manufacturing jobs that put humans at risk of infection" … "We have fields like telemedicine that in a matter of weeks jumped ahead to where we thought we would be in 10 years. Robotics is being deployed into roles like policing curfews, to cleaning subways and hospitals, and delivering groceries."

It isn't always so obvious, but as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in an interview on the CNN Special called Rethinking Normal with Fareed Zakaria, there was a sort of silver lining for tech companies as investment in technology was likely to dramatically increase; and as many experts, critics and journalists all are saying: After the Pandemic (if an end actually happens), life will never be the same.

We are barreling into unknown territory.

No one really knows how industry will replace humans with machines; what the cost will be to those who employ them, and which workers will be let go. It is also not clear if they will be retrained if retaining is possible or what we will do in the way of compensation if we cannot.

This fact becomes particularly acute when we see Artificial Intelligent systems and robots performing almost anything most people take for granted. If anything is repetitive or merely requires software that enables speed, logic, or mathematical excellence, machines will always be better, faster, and cheaper.

The message is becoming clear. As humanity is increasingly threatened, we need to better understand the challenges of technology, artificial intelligent machines, confront the adverse effects of the jobless future, and prepare the next generation by radically changing the existing system of education.

The key to survival may be staying well ahead of the progress of robots, that is what experts in the field seem to be saying; unless we develop our skills on the right side of our brain to be more empathetic, intuitive, see forests and trees and thus be more creative, we will not outpace the robot who eventually will acquire those skills.

Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, says, "The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind — creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people — artists, inventors, designers, story tellers, caregivers, big picture thinkers — will now reap society's rewards and share its greatest joys." Others, including neuroscientists and educators are starting to come to the same conclusion.

Our right brains are tilted toward "human" behaviors and human beings will almost always be in charge of performing work. However, there are just too many jobs that machines can perform. But more than that, our deployment of robots will most likely create other jobs that only humans can do.

Matt Toussant, Ph.D. Senior Vice President, Product & Content Operations, of a division of the American Chemical Society, believes "Machines enable humans to process large volumes of information faster and solve more challenging problems by finding patterns in that data. Likewise, humans enable the technology to evolve and deliver the best possible results."

Eric Shniederman writing for the New York Times "thinks fully automated cars and the tech industry's vision for a robotic future is misguided. Even dangerous. Robots should collaborate with humans, he believes, rather than replace them."

Without a doubt, we will need machines more than ever to help us navigate and make sense of all this. But ultimately, humans will continue to be essential to the process of setting new constructs that enable greater machine learning and applying machine-learned insights to drive new discoveries.

©2022 John M. Eger. All rights reserved.

John M. EgerJohn M. Eger, Professor Emeritus at San Diego State University is an internationally known author and lecturer on the subjects of creativity and innovation, telecommunications and economic development. ...