Humans should learn to work with machines, not compete against them. This was the bold statement of a premier tech researcher from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on the issue of humans being replaced by robots in the workforce.

In an interview with the Straits Times, MIT research scientist Andrew McAfee maintains that machines are best at repetitive tasks and humans cannot compete on that level.  This is why, he said, humans should leave repetitive labor to computers and robots, which would leave time for them to work on scientific discoveries, art and graphic design, and creative writing.

The statement is linked somewhat to an earlier proposition made by billionaire and tech influencer Elon Musk who suggested merging the human brain with artificial intelligence. The unorthodox suggestion would keep humans from becoming obsolete in the robot age.

Dr. McAfee for his part, maintains that construction and assembly work, like manufacturing, can be done more cheaply with automated devices. With fewer people involved in manufacturing, the cost of production would become even lower. There are other jobs where computers are more adept, including financial analysis. Computers now do a lot more stock market trading, at a much faster pace and with more funds.

MSN.com earlier reported 21 industries or niches where humans have already experienced replacement by machines. These include factory workers, chefs, surgeons, retail sales associates, security guards, shepherds, farmers, pharmacists, food delivery drivers, soldiers, receptionists, telemarketers, construction workers, tour guides and much more. Even cab drivers could soon be replaced with flying drone taxis – something that Dubai is already looking at implementing as early as April this year.

Humans Should Play to Their Strengths

“no better time to be an entrepreneur with a great idea, because you can use technology to leverage your inventions”

Still, Dr. McAfee maintains that even if mass production is not their strong suit, humans are in a better position to create businesses. He noted that technology entrepreneurs would always be in demand. These are people who would be starting businesses with computers and software. Dr. McAfee states that there is “no better time to be an entrepreneur with a great idea, because you can use technology to leverage your inventions”. By leveraging technology and getting creative, a great idea can develop into a much needed solution.

More importantly, he underscored that the biggest task that any government can do to make the best use of its human resources is education. People should be educated to learn the new rules and techniques of surviving in a world where automation and mass production have made much of the manual labor obsolete.

The education system is in need of bold ideas and big changes fast. Today’s education system still answers the needs of 50 years ago, instead of addressing today’s or tomorrow’s requirements.

While the MIT professional may not agree with the fact that people are being trained at things which can be better done by machines, computers and automation, he says people need to feed their curiosity, intellectual pursuits, develop problem solving skills, collaboration, and management. These kinds of skills are the ones needed for bold ideas to be born and take root, something which machines are not capable of just yet.  These key areas will need human creativity and we are irreplaceable on that front, for now.

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