And why a college degree may be less valuable in the future
You can keep the robots at bay.
Robots could steal roughly four in 10 U.S. jobs (38%) within about 15 years, according to a report by accounting and consulting firm PwC released this year. “There will be many millions more people and possibly millions fewer jobs globally in the future,” according to the Pew Research Center. “Human workers are often less efficient; they are quirky and costly; and they can’t work 24/7/365. In order to be competitive and survive, decision-makers in government and those who run for-profit and nonprofit enterprises turn to automated solutions.”
But there are skills that may help you protect your career from robots, according to a survey of more than 1,400 technologists, futurists and scholars, released Wednesday, by the Pew Research Center.
“The vast majority of these experts wrestled with a foundational question: What is special about human beings that cannot be overtaken by robots and artificial intelligence?” says Lee Rainie, director of internet, science and technology research at Pew Research Center and co-author of the report. “They were focused on things like creativity, social and emotional intelligence, critical thinking, teamwork and the special attributes tied to leadership.”
Indeed, the report reveals that it will likely be “tough-to-teach intangible skills, capabilities and attributes,” including those listed above — as well as things like curiosity and empathy — that “will be most highly valued” in the 21st century job force. “Increasingly, machines will perform tasks they are better suited to perform than humans, such as computation, data analysis and logic,” says Susan Price, a digital architect at Continuum Analytics who Pew was interviewed for the piece. And that means that for humans “functions requiring emotional intelligence, empathy, compassion, and creative judgment and discernment will expand and be increasingly valued in our culture.”
The four year-college plan may face some challenges too: “While the traditional college degree will still hold sway in 2026, more employers may accept alternate credentialing systems as self-directed learning options and their measures evolve,” the report reveals. “The proof of competency may be in the real-world work portfolios.”
Of course, this doesn’t mean that hard skills — things like coding or writing — won’t still be valued. And there are some jobs that are less at risk from robots in the coming decades than others.
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