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How to Stay Relevant in an Age of Robots

With the rise of AI, automation, robots, and machine learning, you must master the skill of problem solving

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Have you ever read the comic strip, “Dilbert”? I’ve always enjoyed it. It really nails the idiocy of corporate America. Central to the Dilbert message is that there is so much red tape and pointless work that happens in the average office that nothing ever really gets done.

In 2018, Mark Carney, the Governor of The Bank of England caught my attention when he said the rise of robots and artificial intelligence would lead to a “massacre of the Dilberts”.

Carney was speaking of those who have “routine cognitive jobs.” Translation: jobs that automation can replace.

As I wrote a while back, as many as 6% of all jobs could be lost to automation by just 2021. I didn’t know then that COVID would happen and that 60 million jobs would be lost. But what I do know now is that many of those companies are looking at COVID as a time to drive more efficiency and productivity while bringing as few of those lost jobs back as possible.

COVID, Automation, Robots, and millions of replaced jobs

But this is nothing new. “According to an article in Wired, ‘Oxford University researchers have estimated that 47 percent of U.S. jobs could be automated within the next two decades.’”

This crisis just accelerated it. As Time reports in an article entitled “Millions of Americans Have Lost Jobs in the Pandemic—And Robots and AI Are Replacing Them Faster Than Ever,” “One group of economists estimates that 42% of the jobs lost are gone forever.”

Writing further, author Alana Semuels says:

"The deployment of robots as a response to the coronavirus was rapid. They were suddenly cleaning floors at airports and taking people’s temperatures. Hospitals and universities deployed Sally, a salad-making robot created by tech company Chowbotics, to replace dining-hall employees; malls and stadiums bought Knightscope security-guard robots to patrol empty real estate; companies that manufacture in-demand supplies like hospital beds and cotton swabs turned to industrial robot supplier Yaskawa America to help increase production."

Companies closed call centers employing human customer-service agents and turned to chatbots created by technology company LivePerson or to AI platform Watson Assistant.

Again, all “Dilbert” jobs, gone in the blink of an eye.

The question is, what other jobs will disappear with the rise of sophisticated technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning? We don’t have a crystal ball, so we don’t know exactly. But as Semuels writes, “...artificial intelligence is becoming more adept at jobs that once were the purview of humans, making it harder for humans to stay ahead of machines. JPMorgan says it now has AI reviewing commercial-loan agreements, completing in seconds what used to take 360,000 hours of lawyers’ time over the course of a year.”

Maybe dreaming to be a lawyer isn’t going to be an American dream much longer.

One thing I do know, however, is that you need to position yourself now, not some time in the future, to thrive when AI comes in full force.

The four deadly horsemen: robots, automation, AI, and machine learning

In the Bible, the book of Revelation talks about the four deadly horsemen of the apocalypse: conquest, war, famine, and death.

Today, we can talk about the four deadly horsemen of the least for Dilberts, but even for others in the near future: robots, automation, AI, and machine learning.

When I was growing up, my poor dad, my natural father, wanted nothing more than for me to go to a good school and get a good, high-paying job. To him that was the definition of security. He would have loved for me to be a lawyer or a doctor. Today, those jobs are in danger of being replaced by the four deadly horsemen of the employee.

My rich dad, my best friend’s dad, believed differently. He felt that being an employee was one of the least secure things you could do because you had no control. Only the owners of a company had true control. They would replace you in an instant, if they could.

In the rise of the robot and AI age, my rich dad’s view only becomes truer and truer. As technology rapidly rises that makes many jobs obsolete, companies are doing more with less and eliminating “Dilbert” jobs.

As Semuels writes, “Now, as automation lets companies do more with fewer people, successful companies don’t need as many workers. The most valuable company in the U.S. in 1964, AT&T, had 758,611 employees; the most valuable company today, Apple, has around 137,000 employees. Though today’s big companies make billions of dollars, they share that income with fewer employees, and more of their profit goes to shareholders.”

In a world where being an employee becomes increasingly less secure, I believe it is imperative to become more and more entrepreneurially focused. The question you must ask yourself is, “What will be valued in the future when it comes to work?”

My belief is that a core skill set will be in high demand—a skill set most often elevated to the highest level by entrepreneurs. That skill set is problem solving.

Problem solving: How to become relevant in a robot world

Rich dad said, “The problem with this world is that there aren’t enough problem solvers. So, if you become a problem solver you become rich.”

If you look at any successful business, you’ll find the following pattern:

Problem > Solution > Problem > Solution > Problem > Solution
Financial Intelligence -------------------------------------------------→

Entrepreneurs see problems in the world and find solutions. The most successful ones find the best solutions. Within those companies are extremely smart men and women who have a high financial intelligence that comes from a solid financial education, which they apply to help solve these problems and make money from those solutions.

If you want to thrive in an increasingly automated world, you must come to terms with the fact that problems will never go away. No matter how many times you find a solution to one problem, another one will pop up.

But, if you also understand that the process of solving problems is what makes you rich, you’ll welcome problems when they come into your life or when you see them in the lives of others.

Once you start solving not only your own problems but also the problems of others, you become in high demand and your ability to grow rich skyrockets. And when you learn to use the four deadly horsemen of the employee to your advantage, you become exponentially richer.

The equation for massive wealth looks like this:

Automation, robots, AI, and/or machine learning x big problems that need solving = massive wealth

People will pay you a lot of money to solve their problems

The bigger the problem you solve, the more money people will pay you.

For instance, I pay decent money to my housekeeper to keep my house clean. But I pay my doctor more money to keep me healthy and alive. Why? I can live with a dirty house, but I can’t live with disease.

I used to have a couple employees help me do what my MacBook helps me now do in less time. I now gladly pay a few thousand dollars every couple years for computer equipment. Apple solved my problem of inefficiency and higher costs. That’s a valuable problem to be solved.

In our real estate investing, Kim and I make a lot of money because we solve a big problem, quality housing at affordable pricing. And our company, Rich Dad, makes a lot of money because we solve people’s financial education problems.

The more we work at solving these problems and finding solutions to the biggest ones we find—while leveraging the four horsemen of the employee—the more money we make.

Solving problems and leveraging technology takes financial education

As I mentioned earlier, the most successful entrepreneurs grow rich by solving big problems through financial education. They know how to not only make the right product to solve a problem but also how to make a lot of money doing it.

If you want to have a secure financial future, you must also both solve problems and increase your financial education to learn how to make money from the solutions you provide, whether they are products or services.

That is how you will survive the “massacre of the Dilberts.”

Today, I encourage you to begin looking at the world as one ripe with possibilities of problems to be solved and profited from.

Start with the simple question, “What’s my problem?” And work from there. Chances are that if you solve your own problems, you’ll begin to solve others’ problems too.

I also encourage you to continue increasing your financial education so that when times become tough for the average employees, you’ll know how to make money from solving problems, and you’ll know what to do with it to make even more money to solve even bigger problems. That is true security, and something that the robots won’t replace for quite some time.

So, what’s your problem?

Original publish date: April 24, 2018

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