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Transforming the Workforce: The Co-Evolution of Humans and Robots

It's been almost 13 years since the iconic article of Mr. Kevin Kelly from WIRED (link: We wanted to refer to his article and write a piece of our own referring to thie remarkable content.

The topic of job displacement by machines has long provoked discussions, debates, and apprehension. With the advancement in technology, robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have emerged as potential competitors for humans in the employment sphere. However, what if we reconceptualize the narrative, not as a competition, but as an opportunity for the co-evolution of humans and machines? This metamorphosis may lead to an era where robots take over repetitive jobs, while humans excel in the creation of new jobs and work spheres.

Source: Wired, Kevin Kelly.

To frame this discussion, consider a grid divided into four quadrants: Quadrants A and B represent tasks that can be accomplished by humans and robots, and tasks only robots can perform respectively. Quadrant C represents new jobs created by automation, while Quadrant D embodies jobs that currently only humans can do.

Quadrant A: Machines often outperform humans in tasks involving precision, consistency, and volume. For example, automated looms create high-quality cloth faster and more efficiently than human weavers. Moreover, we've accepted machine reliability in manufacturing, and gradually, we're acknowledging its growing competence in complex conceptual tasks like analyzing X-rays and executing tax preparation, tasks once performed by well-paid, highly skilled individuals.

Quadrant B represents tasks that humans physically cannot perform, like creating a single computer chip or searching the entire web in a matter of milliseconds. Robots aren't merely replacing us in these areas; they're undertaking tasks that we could never accomplish unaided. Their unwavering attention to detail and superior data processing capabilities make them indispensable.

Then there is Quadrant C, the domain of new job creation. Automation has enabled us to accomplish tasks we could never have envisioned 150 years ago – from creating digital animations to conducting surgical procedures via robots. This isn't about doing hard chores more efficiently, but about inventing entirely new tasks that could only exist due to machine capabilities.

Importantly, as automation invents new tasks, it primarily creates tasks that only other automation can handle. The resulting rise of innovative jobs often depends on automations and machines not yet invented, suggesting an exciting future brimming with untold possibilities.

Finally, Quadrant D encapsulates jobs that only humans can undertake, at least initially. The principal task that robots cannot currently accomplish is deciding what humans want to do, a circular problem influenced by our previous inventions.

We envision a future where most jobs are performed by bots, and part of your role will be to create, discover, and complete new tasks, many of which will eventually be repetitive jobs for robots. Consider the roles of the future: trip optimizers for robot-driven cars, professionals analyzing self-tracking data, robot nannies ensuring the maintenance of your personal bots. Each of these jobs will, in turn, be taken over by robots, ensuring a cycle of perpetual job creation and displacement.

Imagine a world where we all have workbots at our disposal. You could be running a small organic farm, with your workbots handling weeding, pest control, and harvesting under the guidance of an overseer bot. Your role might involve researching different crop types one day and designing custom labels the next.

In this evolving landscape, success will not simply hinge on owning a robot but will depend on one's ability to innovate and optimize the process of working alongside machines. The future work environment will be one of human-robot symbiosis, with a blurred line between the tasks performed by humans and robots.

We're progressing through the seven stages of robot replacement: a job is a job only because a robot cannot do it. Then, a robot can do it, and you assist; later, the robot does it, and you supervise. Eventually, the robot becomes the entire job, and it's unthinkable that humans ever did the job.

Let's not see this as a race against the machines, for in that race, we lose. This is a race with the machines. In the future, how well you collaborate with robots will determine your earnings. Your coworkers will largely be unseen machines, with a blurry line dividing your tasks from theirs.

The real revolution is not in robots taking our jobs, but in them helping us to create and discover new jobs, thus enhancing our human experience. So, let the robots take the jobs and help us dream up work that matters. In the ongoing evolution of work, our roles will keep transforming, inspiring us to explore the question: "What are humans for?" It will be generations before a robot can answer that. In this exciting journey of co-evolution with machines, our task will always be to continue making jobs for robots, and that's a job that will never end.



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