To beat a robot, be a creative human

We all have the capacity, with deliberate practice, to become more human again.

By Sallyann Della Casa

Published: Mon 30 Apr 2018, 9:57 PM

Last updated: Tue 1 May 2018, 12:04 AM

The single best way to ensure a robot will not take your job is? Try asking this question in your next meeting and see what happens: "How many of you can truly say you are living out loud the length and breadth of your potential every day?" You might get a few cheeky ones asking you what you mean by "potential." Define it as using your talents, gifts, and powers coupled with expressing your passions and exploring (both tall and wide) who you could become, on a daily basis.

I have asked this question over the last seven years to tens of thousands of adults and youths with various levels of education, economic situations and genders across the world. In every single case, less than three people have raised their hand in any audience, regardless of the size.

Yet we are fixated by robots taking our jobs!

In October 2017, I was watching an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN and Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft. Satya noted: "In a world where there is a lot of artificial intelligence, real intelligence will be scarce.." Fareed then hit the nail on the head when he chipped in adding: "The challenge is for human beings to figure out how to become more human!"

Becoming more human is much harder than one thinks, given most of us have at least 17 years of education that has robotised us. Most of us do the exact same thing, day in and day out, in the exact same manner. Same friends. Same holiday destinations. Same traditions. A lot of same-same everywhere, with the occasional scandal of our kid wanting to take a gap year. It is no wonder we are afraid that real robots will "unmask" us and take all our jobs. Real robots are way better than we are at doing repetitive, mundane things where little imagination, empathy, eccentricity, and ingenuity are needed.

Many of those who were more human than the rest of us, that is laughed too much, asked the dumbest questions, and/or dropped out of great jobs or schools to pursue projects of wild passion, we now find around up-shaping the world. Take a close look at the lives of Trevor Noah, Jack Ma, and Lady GAGA. Their lives are messier than most of ours. They have fallen over and gotten back up infinite times and have taken risks that the majority of us cannot even begin to comprehend. When you add their human-ness all up, theirs with all the dings and gaping holes have way more texture than the rest of us. And they are not worried at all about robots taking their jobs!

Now for the great news. We all have the capacity, with deliberate practice, to become more human again.

In his book Peak, author Anders Ericsson sets out the roadmap on how anyone can get good at anything, with something called "Deliberate Practice." This is not the 10,000 hours Malcom Gladwell talked about, that it takes for anyone to become an expert in anything. This is practice involving a teacher/mentor/sponsor/coach who knows how to help others improve in a particular area such as leadership, empathy, judgment, decision making and who can give continuous feedback so you can iterate and adjust your next move on the go. It also involves setting well-defined goals in a specific area that keeps you practicing outside your comfort zone. It is the difference between quantity over quality.

What this means is that every single one of us can get better at being more human by simply converting those who are "human-er" than us into becoming our teachers/coaches/sponsors/mentors, to help us practice with deliberateness at becoming more human ourselves. Not hard, right?

To get motivated, just visualise some of the benefits: you may create a new job category as a robot whisperer - that is robots get directed to you to learn how to become more human; you autograph your work with your unique human-ness, like a Picasso painting that no robot could ever imitate, or you create with your infinite potential something that out-robots the robot so they too have to embrace becoming better robots!

Sallyann Della Casa is a motivation expert

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