Robot-Proof: How to position yourself in the coming Rise of the Machines: Do what you love and let your truth reveal itself to you.

February 1, 2017 admin_61054


How to position yourself in the coming Rise of the Machines: Do what you love and let your truth reveal itself to you.




For those of you who are in a hurry, or just like desert first, here are the take-aways from this article:

• Partner with smart machines, they are the latest power tools.

• Do something you love; follow your bliss as Joseph Campbell exhorts.

• Do what you love and let your truth reveal itself to you.

• Support this with business and computer skills.

• Pursue continuous learning continuously.

Now for the veggies:

No doubt you’ve noticed that we are living in an era of unprecedented and accelerating technological change. The main drivers underlying this change are the exponential growth in in semiconductor capacity, software innovation, connectivity and network size, and data accumulation.

The cost of computer power and storage is rapidly decreasing to the point where it is no longer a resource constraint on starting projects. This in turn has laid the ground for improvements in software and programming. These advances enable us to process the staggeringly massive data sets we are collecting.

Radically new properties like artificial intelligence (AI) are emerging from the confluence of these technological advances. Machine Learning is the field where computers are becoming capable of processing the collected data in ways that mimic learning. More data and faster computers mean more learning and faster amassing of knowledge.

You can see where this is going. Soon computer-based systems will learn faster and know more than us humans in most fields of knowledge. Each of us has to consider where we fit and pursue new strategies for either riding these waves, or being swamped by the tsunami.

Pursuit of Happiness

Technologically driven change demands tightly coupled and continuous connections between education and employment. Progressively better performing and cheaper alternatives to human labor in AI, robotics and automation are crowding out many traditional jobs, careers and professions. This trend can either enhance our pursuit of happiness or threaten our survival.

Happiness, if we systematize ways to explore and harness what makes each of us uniquely human, and locate complementary niches with intelligent computer based power tools. Dystopia if we don’t.

It certainly threatens our current macroeconomic models. These models are based on targets of full employment as the mechanism to distribute wealth to pay living expenses, and provide services like healthcare and retirement benefits. You train for a career, you work, you get paid, and you use that money to pay your living expenses.

If we aim to maintaining this status quo, we are on a collision course with massive unemployment and dislocation as automatons overtake rule-based, routine, and even knowledge-based jobs.

Machine Earning

We are on the cusp of a dramatic shift in our conception of work, employment, earning and learning. Many people that I talk to are having a difficult time comprehending the disruptive changes on the horizon and how they personally will be impacted and affected. There seems to be a complacency that things are going to remain pretty much as they are even as we see emergent signs of sea change all around us.

We have recent precedents of how these tectonic shifts can rapidly occur. Just look to your pocket or purse. The smart phone will be ten years old this October. The iPhone came out in October 2007. Think of how quickly and radically that innovation changed the way we live, our habits, and how we socialize. People are now buried in, and attached to, their devices. It was a quick and complete change. But we still have difficulty transferring the dynamics of that recent revolution to its implications for the workplace and our role in it.

Our institutions, social and economic; academic and educational; governmental and political, share this inertia of not preparing for radical change: About 300 years ago, work came out of the house and into the factory as the Industrial Revolution got underway. We have lived within this system so long now that it seems like natural law that we earn our keep in the world by working and using the money we get to pay our bills. Its been drilled into us by Capitalism, the Protestant work ethic, our school system, our jobs, and our history. It’s how our parents did it, and their parents, and their parents…

But in the relatively near future many if not most jobs, careers and professions are going to be radically altered and disrupted by AI, automation and robotics. The machines will earn their keep. They will be the major driver of increased productivity; but what about us? We individually and all our systems are going to feel and reel from the shock.

The Rise of the Machines

This is a major perspective shift for us humans. We have inhabited the vaunted position at the top of the animal kingdom not because of our physical prowess but from our mental capacities including our ability to project into the future and learn from the past and each other. We dominate the physical and animal world.

We are now going to have to learn to share this role with other kinds and degrees of mental capacities and intelligence; ones that can perform calculations and other activities much faster and more accurately than we can; powerful capabilities that will dominate us in much more than Chess, Jeopardy, and Go.

Twilight of the Anthropocene

We have no precedent for navigating a shift of this degree from our perceived position at the center of the universe. Our myths, religions, and personal perspective have sanctified this status. It’s like a Copernican revolution challenging our position as uncontested rulers of the Earth.

Close Encounters

We have long wondered what would happen if we were visited by extraterrestrials that possessed higher and different levels of intelligence than us. Thinkers have been concerned about how ill equipped we, as a species, are for dealing with not being at the top of the totem pole. How would such encounters and perceived reduced status affect society, religion, our self-esteem and psychology?

This encounter probably won’t arrive from outer space any time soon, but it is inevitable. Its coming from our industrial, academic, and government research labs. It’s the rise of the machines.

Thanks, we’ll take it from here

Machines are already crowding out most jobs on the factory floor. This still looks like a linear pace of encroachment to our hopeful eyes as we extrapolate from the past decades and the cries of wolf from the last century when there were many future visions populated by robots. It has been a dominant prediction since the 1930s. Think Metropolis and dire warnings about a future populated and dominated by robots, Big Brother, and Hal.

Just because it hasn’t happened yet (well, the Big Brother thing is a fait accompli) doesn’t mean we can dismiss it as false. Exponential growth curves operate slowly and almost imperceptibly at first. Until they don’t.

We are prone to cognitive biases that blunt and distort our ability to now anticipate the near term future of even 5-10 years. We tend to project into the future in a linear way and so the accelerating nature of the future shock is not readily graspable.

We are in fact riding into the future on exponentially accelerating innovation curves based on Moore’s Law and Metcalfe’s Law that potentially can ambush us with a future we are not prepared to handle. These are mega trends that are going to mega impact our micro selves. Consider the examples of everyone who feels displaced and left behind by globalization and multiply that dislocation by several orders of magnitude. Feel their pain; and include yourself.


I’ll Be Back

Chatbots like Siri and Alexa will soon do away with call centers. Autonomous vehicles will replace truck drivers (the largest employer in the US) and will make the current Luddite battle between taxi and Uber drivers moot. The junior lawyer role of analyzing and abstracting documents is going the way of the law library and the secretarial pool. And doctors such as radiologists are being replaced by image scanning and recognition software that makes fewer errors, never fatigues or gets distracted, and can function 24/7. Few are immune.

It doesn’t matter the level of education, training and specialization. Jobs and tasks by their very nature are rule-based and repetitive. Or knowledge based. But no human can read all the existing literature in a field and keep up with the continuous fire hose volume of new publishing and discoveries. Computers can.

Titans vs. Olympians

In mythology, the Titanomachy, the newer better-suited Olympians ended up dominating Zeus deposed Saturn. But this current contest can be mythologized differently. This isn’t necessarily a zero sum winner-take-all competition pitting humans against robots. That scenario is just our fear anthropomorphizing and projecting sinister intentions on robots based on our flawed nature, not theirs.

I continue to hear the counter argument that there are many things that humans can do that computers can’t. This is true. Computers, big data, AI and robots represent advances over a fraction of the thinking, feeling, mental and psychological capacities of humans. They won’t replace humans. But they do represent increasing capacities to perform in the narrow area of human endeavors that we have scoped as jobs, careers, and professions. They are poised to out perform us in our currently designed and defined job tasks.

Pay to Play

Universal income may provide us way to redistribute the wealth generated by the massive gains in productivity and output that the machine labor force will generate. We just have to figure out how to equitably redistribute the wealth generated by the productivity of the machines.

This is no small task. There will be inertia and vested interests to overcome depending on who owns these sources of Capital. It will be a challenge of convincing the powers that be that this is in their best interests. It will be considered the ante for enjoying a predictable and stable society. This may provide the best means of avoiding the social disruption that will otherwise accompany 50% or more unemployment.

This approach might solve the shock to institutions and society and provide us with breathing room to revise our expectations surrounding how we relate to what we do for a living. We could take more time to explore what we like to do, rather than what we feel forced to do, to make a living. We could replace work with play. This profound change of attitude could unleash latent creativity and productivity that would radically increase economic output and its overall benefits. The genesis of most discovery and innovation is games, play and enjoyable pursuits. A rising tide lifts all boats.

Under this type of scenario, this next generation of machines can be viewed as power tools for us to use and work with in complementary ways to achieve hitherto unthinkable tasks and levels of productivity. It can free us from the constraints imposed by the Industrial Revolution and other past power structures so we can finally allow ourselves to become more human.

The Human Use of Human Beings

Norbert Wiener was the father of cybernetics and he wrote the book on human/machine interaction with the above title. It was published in 1950. It has taken us 70 years to catch up with the implications of his vision but here we are.

In this new age that we are going to be entering, inhabiting and navigating, we have to be aware and vigilant to make career and educational choices that won’t leave us irrelevant or marginalized in the coming waves of automation. We need to become more human than you men.

We are beginning to experience a disconnect between our traditional educational models and training people for the near future job market. Our existing education takes place in a classroom where we learn at an early age to be punctual and not tardy, to sit obediently, and how to follow instruction, memorize, and regurgitate on standardized tests. We are taught how to be obedient in order to fit into an industrial workforce. But we can’t out obedience the machines.

As Seth Godin has said: we are still teaching people to be cogs in an industrial machine in an age that no longer wants or needs cogs.

Robot-proof: Where are you least replaceable?

Scott Adams is best known as the creator of Dilbert but he is sage in many life areas. Check out his blog, and Seth Godin’s, they are fantastic. Scott offers this advice:

“If you want something extraordinary, you have two paths:

1. Become the best at one specific thing.
2. Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.

The first strategy is difficult to the point of near impossibility. Few people will ever play in the NBA or make a platinum album. I don’t recommend anyone even try.

The second strategy is fairly easy. Everyone has at least a few areas in which they could be in the top 25% with some effort. In my case, I can draw better than most people, but I’m hardly an artist. And I’m not any funnier than the average standup comedian who never makes it big, but I’m funnier than most people. The magic is that few people can draw well and write jokes. It’s the combination of the two that makes what I do so rare. And when you add in my business background, suddenly I had a topic that few cartoonists could hope to understand without living it.”

He goes on to say that truly successful people are usually very good at three things. Let’s take a look at three things that make a powerful combination.

Do what you love and let your truth reveal itself to you

Pursuing something you truly love is a good bet because you will pursue it effortlessly. Because hey, you love it! This is an area were you may even end up in that top 5% simply because you can’t get enough and pursue it with such fervor. You will always enjoy taking deeper dives and going down crazy rabbit holes. But by working with Scott’s second approach it won’t be all or nothing relative to success because you will have supporting skill sets.

What if you don’t know what you love to do? A good test is to start to become aware of the things you do when you procrastinate. That is most likely a strong indicator of what you really should be focusing on and pursuing as a career. Those are the things you really enjoy doing.

The issue then becomes how to monetize following your bliss so that it can become a sustainable pursuit. Even if you end up in the top 25%, I am proposing acquiring skills in two other areas that will make you a triple threat.

Such an arrangement is to support the love activity that just pulls you along almost effortlessly, with two more standardized skill sets that are transferrable over a wide range of activities.

One of those is business skills: strategic thinking, financial literacy, management, leadership, communications, public speaking (Warren Buffett calls it the best investment he ever made), marketing especially online marketing: SEO, analytics, growth hacking; lean start up and entrepreneurship. These skills will help you with monetizing and creating a sustainable business model around your love pursuit.

The other is computer and technical skills. Skill sets like coding for the web, apps, databases, user interfaces; or Google Analytics and SEO; or big data science; or hardware systems. It is within all of our reach to start picking up some computer or programming skills. This skill set will allow you to create and develop products, services and awareness for your business. And they will allow you to interact with and understand our intelligent machine friends.

There are so many business and computer related courses available now on MOOCs (Massively Open Online Courses) like Coursera, Udacity, edX, Udemy, or Lynda for free or incredibly reasonably priced. Check out their websites and look at the options. And check out for business skill set knowledge.

Think of this skill based knowledge ecosystem as a Love Triangle.


Here are the takeaways:

• Partner with machines, they are the latest power tools.

• Do something you love; follow your bliss as Joseph Campbell exhorts.

• Do what you love and let your truth reveal itself to you.

• Support this with business and computer skills.

• Pursue continuous learning continuously.

Step away from the TV and begin. Today. The machines are coming. And your true self is calling.

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