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Is AI Going to Take Your Job? Human Work and What AI Can't Do

Updated: Mar 18

Is AI going to take your job?

That's the question many people are asking with the advent of Artificial Intelligence and its looming presence in our everyday lives. 

humans vs AI

Go to the comments section on any social media platform where AI is a topic and you’ll find people who are afraid of It taking their job. An American friend of mine moved to the Midwest and posted a video on Instagram of a tall rectangular machine with wheels at Walmart, beeping, rolling around, and scanning the shelves all by itself.

Commenters did not hold back: “Robots have taken our jobs!” “What will there be for us to do now?” “These are the effects on us of AI!” A few commenters responded with less concern, “Who wants to do inventory anyway?” “Companies know inventory is a waste of time but it has to be done, why not let the robots do it?

AI powered robots doing inventory at Walmart
Photo from CNBC

The truth is, they’re all correct. There’s no doubt that AI and technology have streamlined processes and are changing the way of work, making some jobs done by humans obsolete. But it's also true that just because machines can replace many jobs done by humans, does not mean that human work can be wholly replaced by machines.  

just because machines can replace many jobs done by humans, does not mean that human work can be wholly replaced by machines.  

What’s Coming: Labor Changes and Major Social Consequences

In case you haven’t kept up, we have a Fourth Industrial Revolution at our doorstep, a term coined by the World Economic Forum, that defines a new reality where technology advances to the point where society’s way of work changes drastically, from the jobs we do to the hours we work, and who (or what) does those jobs. These major changes in labor will not only affect the practical way society organizes itself but also produce psychological effects on swaths of humanity that have been taught that their morality is connected to their work ethic and output. That said, if we’re looking at a future where AI is able to replace so many jobs, the question remains: which ones?

What AI Can’t Do

There has been a shift in the paradigm. It’s time to determine the difference between human work and machine work. Soft Skills is a term you’ve probably seen and heard, and now with the evolution of technology and AI, you’ll be hearing a lot more of it. Soft Skills are slowly becoming synonymous with “human work”. 

Experts in AI and Sociology agree that Soft Skills are uniquely human traits, necessary for leadership and for making context-appropriate decisions about creativity and human freedom. Jobs that require mostly Soft Skills like management, organization, or creative work where defining strategy or directing people is necessary are not functions AI is able to perform. 

Soft Skills to Pay the Bills?

Whether you’re aware of it or not, Soft Skills are part of your humanity and can most certainly be learned. In fact, many prestigious academic institutions that stubbornly refused for decades to teach them have been bulking up their programs in recent years. It’s important to understand the difference between Soft Skills vs Hard Skills. Characteristics of Soft Skills are curiosity, adaptability, leadership, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity, and affect how someone works, whereas Hard Skills are technical competencies that are learned and measurable and necessary to do the work.

In simple terms: Soft Skills are needed for Hard Skills to actually bring results.

Dedication and Service

The robots are still not in charge. AI needs to be managed as it is not capable of leadership and management. Leadership attributes like dedication and service are what motivate people and lead to decision-making and execution. Someone’s network, their virtues, and morals will affect this process in leadership and individual roles. Artificial Intelligence is limited to predictive decision-making and not capable of prudential reasoning, meaning it cannot make decisions based on personal dedication or service. Even autonomous processors like Siri and Alexa rely on databases and algorithms to make predictions and carry out tasks. 

Putting Technology in Its Place 

Securing our space in the future of work as humans will require us leaning into our humanity, understanding what humans do best and what we need from each other. We need leaders chosen according to their ability to gain trust, admiration, appreciation, and their willingness to serve. There is a need to be able to make decisions and execute those decisions based on practicality and not only on theory. The alternative is getting lost in speculation, or the mindless execution of decisions without any thought to the consequences as AI does.

Our collective definition of human work is going to change as technology advances, and our relationship with technology will become clearer when we begin to reconcile with our own humanity. In the meantime, we'll stay entertained in the comments section.

“AI facilitates decision-making but it does not replace it. Without human will, ethical decision-making is impossible because prudential criteria always originates in human actions and depends on the will of the person who designs a tool or uses it.”

From the book, Soft Skills for Human Centered Management and Global Sustainability 


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