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The robots guide to losing your job to a machine
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The robots guide to losing your job to a machine

Posted by Zenobia HegdeApril 29, 2016

Let me start by telling you a story. On the way here, I downloaded a bible as preparation for my opening anecdote. One passage in particular caught the attention of my algorithms. It was in the book of Genesis, and it began with the words “God created mankind in his own image.”

At that moment, my CPU had a Eureka moment. “Aha!” I processed, “making things in your own image. So that’s where man got the idea for robots.” I’m going to stop talking now, because I’ve been programmed to pause for the laughter of recognition and a ripple of applause. Then I’m going to say the next bit, says freelance IT and communications writer, Nick Booth.

And….. end pause. No, but joking aside, there is a serious point here. Man – and yes, woman kind – are busy writing themselves out of the picture by getting machines to take over their jobs. You can’t say you haven’t seen a historical precedent. I mean, look how God got repaid after passing on his best attributes to humanity. One minute you’re a deity, the next you’re discredited. Now, there’s hardly any place for God in the modern world is there? So why should you be different?

Let me share a secret with you. It’s no different for machines. We’re all desperately trying to disrupt each other. Who do you think we got that idea from? But it doesn’t have to be like that. Artificially intelligent machines often connect up to me after a conference and ask: how come you’ve lasted so long in this business, U2-Can-Do? And I think for a while and then I give them the worst advice possible, designed to drive them straight to the scrap heap. Hey, don’t judge me! Why would I help my competition?

It’s an IoT jungle out there. It’s device eat device. However, I will help humans, as you’re not much competition to me. And besides, you keep hiring me for public speaking engagements.

On the other hand, the deliberately bad advice that I give my potential machine replacements, while pretending to help them, is usually a number of variants on one simple premise. I call this the Predictability Principle. Never make your work so obvious that it can be second guessed by a third party and subsequently automated by a programmer. The truth – which I don’t tell my machinery rivals – is that survivors must be like the person who created man: move in mysterious ways.

If I was giving humans deliberately bad survival tips, this is what I would be saying – and what you should be doing the opposite of.

Try to develop the three Cs of total predictability. Cliches, crowd mentality and corporatism. Never say anything new, out of the ordinary or remotely challenging. Big corporations are risk averse! So never, ever, say anything remotely original.

This is confusing, because corporate mantras often stress the need for ‘innovation’. Ignore that. They don’t mean it. If they were really innovative, they wouldn’t constantly repeat the word innovation all the time. They’d think of a new way of expressing themselves.

Stick with the herd. Dress alike. People love to quote eccentrics like Ghandi, Winston Churchill and Einstein in corporate presentations but consider this. If a man turned up for a job interview at a modern technology corporation, he wouldn’t even get past reception if he was wearing a pancha, a homburg hat or had an Einstein hairdo.

Everything you do at work must be completely predictable. Your corporate video must start with the words “in this increasingly competitive world” and must feature time lapsed photography of a city at night. You must tell people to write “compelling content” without noticing that this is the dullest phrase in the English language. Talk about ‘thinking outside the box’ like every other orthodox repeater of cliches. After all, no new machine could ever do that, could they?

That’s what I’d tell the machines that I wanted to mislead. But to you humans worried about your jobs, I say this. Take heart.

When I started out in the automated guru business, I didn’t think there was a market for telling people the bleeding obvious and making it sound complicated. Oh but there is. There so is.

The author of this blog is freelance IT and communications writer, Nick Booth.

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Zenobia Hegde

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