Do what the robots can’t

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If robots can replace your job, it’s not the robots’ fault

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. June 8, 2016

Robots are here to make our lives easier, and in the process, they are eliminating a lot of menial work. We see it everywhere from the banking to the food industry, and all areas of retail and trade. These industries employ people all across the globe. The idea of all of these jobs becoming obsolete is a bit concerning since there has yet to be a real replacement.

When a worker is made redundant, replaced by a machine or an algorithm, the situation is met with pessimism. The notion is that if you don’t know how to code, you might as well starve. However, the rise of the automated, robotic workforce is something we have been experiencing since our youth. We grew up with computers and machines, so why is it so shocking when a new system replaces us on the assembly line?

In tech, there is a lot of talk about disruption. Is this software or hardware capable of changing the way we accomplish a task? Can the iPhone change the way we pay our bills? Will streaming services make video rental stores relics? How can virtual reality change the way we shop online? Not only do innovators consider how a product can disrupt an industry, they consider the industries ripe for disruption. They find the problem before the solution.

A controversial disruption at the moment is with driverless cars. The technology is there, but regulations and lobbyists are preventing it from reaching the next phase. The transportation network Uber has openly announced that as soon as driverless cars are available, clients will be able to select that as an option when hailing a ride. Who’s angry with this? Taxi drivers, chauffeurs, transit people, and anybody else that makes a living working in transportation.

Only time will tell if driverless cars will become a fixture in our daily society. But if I was a taxi driver, I’m not going to bank on my driving skills to sustain me for the next 40 years, I’m going to start developing some other set of skills just in case. Learning how to fix cars can be another skill to add on. That’s just a thought.

So often we are pessimistic when it comes to new technology stealing our jobs. But these technologies didn’t sneak up on us. These technologies took years and years of development. They are all over the news and they gave us every opportunity to be more relevant. Like a rival, it is pushing us to improve. You cannot and should not fight against it, as it has been shown all through history, humans will veer to the side of convenience, profitability, and security.

Turn the lens onto yourself and ask: “How will a robot disrupt my career?” Then, either build that robot, or be better than it. The question is not how robots can replace you, but how can you replace the robots when they come? I’m confident that you will figure it out.

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Don’t be a brand; be brand new

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Why your personal brand may be limiting

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. May 4, 2016

At a young age, we created an identity for ourselves. This identity follows us like a shadow throughout our academic, professional, and even romantic endeavours. We become this persona of what people see us as, and we measure ourselves by our accomplishments within that scope.

While establishing a personal brand for yourself may be useful if you are marketing your services to employers, I don’t believe it should be a strict guideline for you to live by. As human beings, we should be allowed to have the freedom to explore. This exploration nurtures growth, a type of metamorphosis that can only happen when new experiences are injected into our lives. You cannot experience anything new if you live your life as a brand.

Let’s say you love rap music. It’s your thing. It’s your brand. Everyday you wear your headphones and you listen to rap. People know you for that and you wouldn’t be caught dead listening to anything else. That sounds like a pretty limiting life, doesn’t it?

It’s important for us to put aside our preconceptions once in awhile and be open-minded. Your brand shouldn’t be rap music; it should be music or art. While you can specialize in rap, you will have a more diversified understanding of music if you listen to the whole range. Rap can be your passion, but if you want your brand to grow and mature—and not just be a pretentious shadow that throws shade at other people who don’t like what you like—you have to broaden your horizons and explore.

It’s easy to establish a brand for yourself and live within those boundaries. People expect you to dress a certain way, talk a certain way, and act a certain way. We like when things are predictable. After all, that is why McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Wal-Mart are so popular: you know what to expect. However, unlike billion-dollar corporations, we as human beings need to have the flexibility to shift gears without upsetting the shareholders.

You are not a brand. You are a person. You might have followers, you might have employers, and you might have friends that will expect you to behave in a way that fits their branding, and that’s fine. You can wear a persona like a uniform. You can be professional and friendly, but you must also be pushing yourself beyond those that are already around you. While those within your vicinity will influence and support you, they also act as a black hole that is pulling you deeper and deeper into a character that is merely their expectation of you. Don’t be that character. Don’t be a brand.

When you wake up tomorrow, be someone who dares to do something different.