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  • Transcriber: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Camille Martínez

  • I was in my mid-20s the first time I realized

  • that I could be replaced by a robot.

  • At the time, I was working as a financial reporter

  • covering Wall Street and the stock market,

  • and one day, I heard about this new AI reporting app.

  • Basically, you just feed in some data,

  • like a corporate financial report or a database of real estate listings,

  • and the app would automatically strip out all the important parts,

  • plug it into a news story

  • and publish it,

  • with no human input required.

  • Now, these AI reporting apps,

  • they weren't going to win any Pulitzer Prizes,

  • but they were shockingly effective.

  • Major news organizations were already starting to use them,

  • and one company said that its AI reporting app

  • had been used to write 300 million news stories in a single year,

  • which is slightly more than me

  • and probably more than every human journalist on earth combined.

  • For the last few years,

  • I've been researching this coming wave of AI and automation,

  • and I've learned that what happened to me that day

  • is happening to workers in all kinds of industries,

  • no matter how seemingly prestigious or high-paid their jobs are.

  • Doctors are learning that machine learning algorithms

  • can now diagnose certain types of cancers more accurately than they can.

  • Lawyers are going up against legal AIs that can spot issues in contracts

  • with better precision than them.

  • Recently at Google, they ran an experiment with an AI that trains neural networks --

  • essentially, a robot that makes other robots.

  • And they found that these AI-trained neural networks

  • were more accurate than the ones that their own human programmers had coded.

  • But the most disturbing thing I learned in my research

  • is that we've been preparing for this automated future

  • in exactly the wrong way.

  • For years, the conventional wisdom has been that if technology is the future,

  • then we need to get as close to the technology as possible.

  • We told people to learn to code and to study hard skills

  • like data science, engineering and math,

  • because all those soft skills people,

  • those artists and writers and philosophers,

  • they were just going to end up serving coffee to our robot overlords.

  • But what I learned was that essentially the opposite is true.

  • Rather than trying to compete with machines,

  • we should be trying to improve our human skills,

  • the kinds of things that only people can do,

  • things involving compassion and critical thinking and moral courage.

  • And when we do our jobs,

  • we should be trying to do them as humanely as possible.

  • For me, that meant putting more of myself in my work.

  • I stopped writing formulaic corporate earnings stories,

  • and I started writing things that revealed more of my personality.

  • I started a financial poetry series.

  • I wrote profiles of quirky and interesting people on Wall Street

  • like the barber who cuts people's hair at Goldman Sachs.

  • I even convinced my editor to let me live like a billionaire for a day,

  • wearing a 30,000 dollar watch and driving around in a Rolls Royce,

  • flying in a private jet.

  • Tough job,

  • but someone's got to do it.

  • And I found that this new human approach to my job

  • made me feel much more optimistic about my own future,

  • because you can teach a robot to summarize the news

  • or to write a headline that's going to get a lot of clicks

  • from Google or Facebook,

  • but you can't automate making someone laugh

  • with a dumb limerick about the bond market

  • or explaining what a collateralized debt obligation is to them

  • without making them fall asleep.

  • And as I researched more,

  • I found so many more examples of people who had succeeded this way

  • by refusing to compete with machines

  • and instead making themselves more human.

  • Take Rus.

  • Rus Garofalo is my accountant.

  • He helps me with my taxes every year,

  • and as you can probably tell from the photo,

  • Rus is not a traditional accountant.

  • He's a former standup comedian,

  • and he brings his comedic sensibility to his work.

  • I swear, I've had more fun talking about itemized deductions with Rus

  • than at actual comedy shows that I've paid real money to see.

  • Rus knows that in the age of TurboTax,

  • the only way for human accountants to stay relevant

  • is bringing something to the table other than tax expertise.

  • So he started a company called Brass Taxes.

  • Get it?

  • He hired a bunch of other funny and personable accountants,

  • and he started looking for clients in creative industries

  • who would appreciate the value of having a human being

  • walk them through their taxes.

  • Now, technically, I should be very worried about Rus,

  • because tax preparation is a highly automation-prone industry.

  • In fact, according to an Oxford University study,

  • it has a 99 percent chance of being automated.

  • But I'm not worried about Rus,

  • because he's figured out a way to turn tax preparation from a chore

  • into an entertaining human experience

  • that lots of people, including me,

  • are willing to pay for.

  • Or take Mitsuru Kawai.

  • Sixty years ago, Mitsuru started as a junior trainee

  • at a Toyota factory in Japan.

  • He made car parts by hand.

  • And this was the 1960s,

  • an era where the auto industry was undergoing

  • a huge technological transformation.

  • The first factory robots had started coming onto the assembly lines,

  • and a lot of people were worried

  • that auto workers were going to become obsolete.

  • Mitsuru decided to focus on what, in Japanese, is called "monozukuri" --

  • basically, human craftsmanship.

  • He studied all the nuanced, intricate details of auto design,

  • and he developed these kind of sixth-sense skills

  • that few of his other colleagues had.

  • He could listen to a machine and tell when it was about to break

  • or look at a piece of metal and figure out what temperature it was

  • just by what shade of orange it was glowing.

  • Eventually, Mitsuru's bosses noticed that he had all these skills

  • that his coworkers didn't,

  • and they made him really valuable,

  • because he could work alongside the robots filling in the gaps,

  • doing the things that they couldn't do.

  • He kept getting promoted and promoted,

  • and just this year,

  • Mitsuru Kawai was named Toyota's first-ever Chief Monozukuri Officer,

  • in recognition of the 60 years that he spent teaching Toyota workers

  • that even in a highly automated industry,

  • their human skills still matter.

  • Or take Marcus Books.

  • Marcus Books is a small, independent, Black-owned bookstore

  • in my hometown of Oakland, California.

  • It's a pretty amazing place.

  • It's the oldest Black-owned bookstore in America,

  • and for 60 years,

  • it's been introducing Oaklanders

  • to the work of people like Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou.

  • But the most amazing thing about Marcus Books

  • is that it's still here.

  • So many independent bookstores have gone out of business

  • in the last few decades

  • because of Amazon or the internet.

  • So how did Marcus Books do it?

  • Well, it's not because they have the lowest prices

  • or the slickest e-commerce setup or the most optimized supply chain.

  • It's because Marcus Books is so much more than a bookstore.

  • It's a community gathering place,

  • where generations of Oaklanders have gone to learn and grow.

  • It's a safe place

  • where Black customers know that they're not going to be followed around

  • or patted down by a security guard.

  • As Blanche Richardson, one of the owners of Marcus Books, told me,

  • "It just has good vibes."

  • Earlier this year, Marcus Books temporarily closed,

  • and like a lot of businesses, its future was uncertain.

  • It was raising money through a GoFundMe page.

  • And then George Floyd was killed.

  • The streets filled with protests,

  • and orders poured in to Marcus Books from all over the country --

  • first, a hundred books a day,

  • then 200,

  • then 300.

  • Today, they're selling five times as many books

  • as they were before the pandemic,

  • and their GoFundMe page has raised more than 250,000 dollars.

  • And if you look at the comments on its GoFundMe page,

  • you can see why Marcus Books has survived all these years.

  • One person wrote that we have a duty to preserve gems like this

  • in our community.

  • Someone else said,

  • "I've been going to Marcus Books since I was a child,

  • and Blanche Richardson showed me many kindnesses."

  • "Gems."

  • "Kindnesses."

  • Those aren't words about technology.

  • They're not even words about books.

  • They're words about people.

  • The thing that saved Marcus Books

  • was how they made their customers feel:

  • an experience, not a transaction.

  • If you, like me,

  • sometimes worry about your own place in an automated future,

  • you have a few options.

  • You can try to compete with the machines.

  • You can work long hours,

  • you can turn yourself into a sleek, efficient productivity machine.

  • Or you can focus on your humanity

  • and doing the things that machines can't do,

  • bringing all those human skills to bear

  • on whatever your work is.

  • If you're a doctor, you can work on your bedside manner

  • so that your patients come to see you as their friend

  • rather than just their medical provider.

  • If you're a lawyer, you can work on your trial skills

  • and your client interactions

  • rather than just cranking out briefs and contracts all day.

  • If you're a programmer,

  • you can spend time with the people who actually use your products,

  • figure out what their problems are and try to solve them,

  • rather than just hitting next quarter's growth targets.

  • That's how we become futureproof.

  • Not by taking on the machines,

  • but by excelling in the areas where humans have a natural advantage.

  • By living and working more like humans,

  • we can make ourselves impossible to replace.

  • And the good news is that we don't have to learn a single line of code

  • or deploy a single algorithm.

  • In fact, you already have everything you need.

  • Thank you.

Transcriber: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Camille Martínez

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/03/24
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