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5 Skills to Not Become Obsolete in the AI Era

In this post I want to talk about a slightly different topic than my usual, technical AI blogposts - something I believe is really important for us to succeed in the long term.

This article is based on my YouTube video on the same topic:

The world is changing fast. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here. To stay relevant in the AI-era, we need to develop 21st century job skills, i.e., skills that cannot be replaced by robots and AI. This means embracing the change and then exploring and cultivating what makes us uniquely human.

1. Continuous Learning

Many people think that once they have completed a degree, i.e., they have done what it takes to get a job that pays them high enough, they are all set for life. Even if this was ever true, this is certainly not true in today's technology-driven world. The concept of upskilling is not new per se, but what has changed is that the pace of disruption is faster than ever - there is no one job for life anymore. 
As the famous historian Yuval Noah Harari tells us in his awesome book "21 lessons for the 21st century":

Technological innovation and AI are going to accelerate at a pace we've yet to really comprehend so unless you are 80 years old or something, you will have to repeatedly reinvent yourself in the coming decades to survive that change - you'll probably change your job a number of times to not become obsolete.

This means that the value of continuous learning has become more important than ever before. So, unless we want to become obsolete in this fast changing world, both as individual and organizations, we need to keep up with it by learning to evolve rapidly.

Since the ability to learn rapidly is going to be such a huge game changer, you can go deeper on this topic here: ultimate system to learn anything smarter and faster

2. Critical Thinking

In the 19th century, when information used to be scarce, cramming students with lots of information made a lot of sense. Unfortunately, many schools still tend to place too much emphasis on doing the same. Today we have access to more knowledge on our fingertips than what was accessible to the President of the United State some decades ago - "traditional learning was built for a world that we don't live in anymore."

The essential skill needed in this century is to learn how to make sense of the vast amounts of information that bombards us on a daily basis. Our problem is not scarcity of information but all the misinformation that now exists. We need to learn how to distinguish between important information and irrelevant, between reality and fake news. We can do this by developing our critical thinking muscle.

To be clear, critical thinking has nothing to do with criticizing others. It is about making judgments based on well thought out and logical reasons. This means, when faced with a big decision, you put the brakes on, scan the horizon, develop well thought out and informed judgments and conclusions, and then only hit the accelerator. Basically, it's thinking about thinking.

Even if thinking critically doesn't always come naturally, it is a muscle that can be trained with time and practice. And training it pays off because it plays a huge role in how successful you are in life:

"It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped."- Tony Robbins

3. Creativity

According to a LinkedIn study creativity was ranked as the number one soft skill. And even when analyzing both soft and hard skills, it still made it to the top skills employers search for.

We generally tend to associate creativity with things like composing music, and writing poetry, but creativity is much more than that. "Creativity is problem-solving with relevance and novelty", which explains why it tops the charts both among soft and hard skills. 

We cannot compete with AI in recalling information, performing logical tasks to a tee or finding patterns from data, but when it comes to thinking outside the box, connecting dots, or designing experiences that play to the base elements of being human, AI does not meet the bar. A main reason for this is that we use our shared life experiences and emotions to bring creativity to life - a capability that machines lack and will continue to "struggle" with.

4. Emotional Intelligence

We will get to a stage where AI will get better at diagnosing diseases better than a doctor, and even recommend better treatments. But it cannot replace the value that a person sitting down with a patient and listening to them empathetically brings to the table. Feeling listened to by a doctor is not less important than their technical competence. And it will become an increasingly important skill for a doctor, unless they want to lose their job to a machine - there is great value to us in being seen, being heard, and relating to others.

We are far from a stage where AI can claim consciousness, emotions, empathy, or compassion. Understanding others, being able to motivate them and lead them with empathy are going to be the capabilities that will become more and more sought out over the next decade. 

Begin to give importance to these skills the same way you focus on developing your technical skills. Develop emotional intelligence, become an outstanding motivator, leader and listener, so that when AI disrupts your job, you do not become obsolete.

5. Mindfulness

At the 5th Annual World Government Summit, over 4000 politicians, private sector leaders, policymakers, and experts, including the visionary Elon Musk, came together to discuss topics that will shape future governments. A radical vision of our future emerged which placed self-awareness and mindfulness at the center of human endeavor. Let's look at some of the reasons why:

Mindfulness is the core 21st century capacity, because it is about our biggest competitive advantage over machines: awareness itself. More often than not, we let our monkey mind run the show; we live in a default, distracted state. However, things we can do on autopilot, AI will learn to do them as well.

Mindfulness is the pillar supporting all the previous skills. Critical thinking, emotional intelligence or creativity, all these skills require us to understand our own subjective and collective experiences and to develop a sense of togetherness, empathy, and compassion. 

Mindfulness also helps us develop the mental stamina to handle this unprecedented pace of change:

"Even if there is a new job, and even if you get support from the government to kind of retrain yourself, you need a lot of mental flexibility to manage these transitions. Teenagers or 20-somethings, they are quite good with change. But beyond a certain age - when you get to 40, 50 - change is stressful. And a weapon you will have [is] the psychological flexibility to go through this transition at age 30, and 40, and 50, and 60. The most important investment that people can make is not to learn a particular skill - "I'll learn how to code computers," or "I will learn Chinese," or something like that. No, the most important investment is really in building this more flexible mind or personality." - Yuval Noah Harari

Access to huge amount of data has given us power, but it didn't come with the wisdom to use this power sensibly. That requires conscious choices and awareness. While we are living mindlessly, without fully grasping this new world unfolding around us, technology is changing the DNA of our society. Our future generation will have to live with the consequences of our unconscious decisions today - let's not choose to allow technology to radically change our lives and society on autopilot; let's choose to use it to live more mindfully and create more fulfilling lives.


To succeed in the face of the inevitable disruption by AI, begin to focus on capabilities around continuous learning, creativity, problem solving, leadership, empathy and mindfulness.

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Happy Learning and Keep Evolving! :)

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