Why Human Competition is the Least You Have to Fear

robot_vs_human

By Mars Dorian, Contributing {grow} Columnist

This headline may seem like a hoax, but I assure you, it’s not.

We all know the times are changin’, but most of us don’t realize what those changes mean to YOU and your career. We also know that competition is on steroids in the online age, but most of us think only about human competition. But it’s not humans you have to rival, but artificial agents, also known as robots.

Heh.

I can read your thoughts already – yeah, yeah, that’s some fun sci-fi you gobbled up there, but that won’t replace ME because I’m unique / incomparable / one of kind / or whatever one gloriously thinks of her/himself.

Impossible? Let’s look at where technology is today:

  • Google launched the driverless car. In the near future, you may not need a driver’s license because you’ll never have to drive again. The car is first on the automation control list, ships and aircraft will be next. Wait for it.
  • Philip M. Parker, a professor of management science in France received worldwide coverage. Why? Well, he used a robotic algorithm to write and upload over 200,000 (!) eBooks to Amazon. Talking about prolific writing. Granted, it’s not Shakespeare yet, but if a robot can already write correct reports, how long till they create your content marketing plan?
  • According to this short CBS documentary about robotization, we’re beginning to see robots (yeah, real robots) entering the workforce. The short feature includes two renowned MIT professors who predict that robots will completely replace every job known to mankind by the beginning of the next century.
  • In this three-part series from The Associated Press, experts warn that if you add up all the jobs that technology (like robots) can take, the world is going to see unemployment on a scale that we haven’t begun to imagine. The article quotes software entrepreneur Martin Ford, who foresees a computer-dominated economy with 75 percent unemployment before the end of this century, and questions whether human beings will have anything left to do as robot and computers get smarter.

Boom.

Still think you’re irreplaceable? That’s also what horse sellers thought when Henry Ford introduced the first affordable automobile to the general public. They probably laughed their hooves off.

Yeah, I think we all know how that story ended.

Listen – technology has already put a death strike on many businesses- especially the traditional media. Book publishers and newspapers have to face extinction if they don’t adapt. But it’s not just the big corporations that have to adapt, you have to, too.

The more replaceable and “mediocre” your service and offer, the easier and faster you will be replaced by an algorithm / app / software that does the job better than you at a fraction of your cost.

But hey, I don’t want to paint the future black. There’s a lot of opportunity before the robots (mis)use us as human batteries and trap our minds in a virtual reality version. What other people see as crisis I see as opportunity. (BTW – the Chinese symbol for “crisis” consists of the signs “danger” and “opportunity,” and I want to focus on the opportunity part.)

If more and more of our work can become replaceable, what can you do to stay relevant?

Here are my top tips that I obsessively follow myself:

Define your edge and go there.

If you create work that’s easy to replicate, you will attract copycats. And if a human can copy your style / tactic / method, so can a robot algorithm. Bad for business. Baaad for you.

You want to make it challenging to replicate the value you give, and that’s why you have to go the edges your competition isn’t willing to approach. You should do something extreme with your biz that makes it stand out. I for example will include more and more images and graphics into my online presence – creating a color-bombed visual marketing blog experience you haven’t seen before.

I believe: Over-the-top in your market shouldn’t be a one time thing, it should be your mantra.

Creating caring connections.

Business is made of humans. No matter how technical it gets, it’s still about humans serving other human beings, at least in this century.

Your network is your only job security – the more and better you’re connected with people from around the globe, the more opportunities will arise. I currently get 70% of my work through referrals and recommendations. Am I the only one that can solve their problems?  No. But because they know me through a common friend they trust, they automatically trust me. And trust can lead to collaboration. Eventually.

If you offer value with your service and you create heartfelt connections, word-of-mouth will bring you work. No robots required.

Make art and change your client’s life. 

Making art is the opposite of creating a commodity. That’s why bowling is so boring – it’s limited by a perfect score people can reach, which means getting good at it is no big value. Not so with “art.”

In essence, making “art” means creating value that’s hard to put a number on. You can feel it, but you can’t compare it. It’s unique.

You’re touching a human (and remember, all business is still about humans ) in a way s/he hasn’t been touched before. And I don’t mean in the dirty sense.

It can be your personality, your enchanting customer service or something else that only YOU can bring to the table. Drop the corporate speech. Lose the artificiality. Infuse the human touch. And when you make customers emotionally glued to you, there’s no need to fear a C3PO taking away your job. At least for now.

Conclusion:
The robot revolution won’t come in the form of Terminators with German-Austrian accents that annihilate you.  Noooo. It will quietly creep into your life, eventually replacing you if you’re unwilling to adapt and make your work emotionally-essential. Maybe it’s already happening. Prove that you’re human and make “art” work that only you can make.

What do you think?

mars dorianMars Dorian describes himself as a creative marketeer with a moon-melting passion for human potential and technology. You can follow his adventures at www.marsdorian.com/

Original illustrations by the author.

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  • I love this bro, “I believe: Over-the-top in your market shouldn’t be a one time thing, it should be your mantra.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Passion, Awesome, Epic needs to be a way of life.

    All the best,

    Hanley

  • Gabrielle

    I agree that technology is moving at a break-neck pace, and for those in commodity-type, repeatable, systematizable jobs, are in danger of being replaced. But I too am an opportunity-focused person. The opportunities you identified, Mark, are spot on!

    I can see it in my own industry (accounting), technology is certainly replacing those who want to do things by rote, without using what humans do have over machines – a brain that is also reasoning and includes compassion and emotion. I do think we can be replaced to a certain extent, but it’s that human touch that really does make all the difference. And for the relatively long term (next 20 years anyway) those who do well are those who are able to provide outstanding value through relationship and thinking ability (reasoning).

    Example: We have more technology than we could ever need now for communication – yet where things get balled up is that the humans have to do the actual communicating (at least the type that matters most) – and I believe (authentic human) communication is still the #1 glitch on the planet!

    That’s the view from here! I certainly agree that for those who are willing to step up, the opportunities are very exciting! 🙂

  • I agree, Mars! I think you can even extend this further. Nowadays, the marketing landscape is extremely crowded. Why choose you to handle it for them when there are 10 other companies who say they can do it better, cheaper, etc? The “art” or human aspect of what you do is what makes to stand out from technology and any other form of competition.

    Great food for thought Mars!

  • johnbottom

    Nice post, Mars. And it’s all true. I’d venture that it has always been true that we need to stress the unique and avoid the bland if we want to maintain our value. Think technological singularity is a way off yet though (but if you want a pessimistic view, check out Vernor Vinge – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernor_Vinge).

    Thanks for posting – interesting stuff

  • I, for one, welcome our robotic overlord masters!

  • Heh, we’ll see about that when they misuse your body as a battery 😉

  • Hey Gabrielle – I agree with you about the ‘human’ touch. But I’m also curious – when will the moment come when we’ll connect to “robots” just as much as we can connect with “humans” ? After all, we do have an innate ability to humanify almost anything.

  • Yeah, exactly. That’s why you have to work even harder to make that human connection and unique-factor.

  • Way off ? I wish in some parts. But looking at the breakneck speed tech evolves (just look at Siri – how long till she becomes super-smart and human ?) I think it comes earlier than we all think. Thanx for introducing me to Vernor Vinge – never heard of the guy, but since I’m venturing more and more into sci-fi and tech related stuff, I’ll check out his writings.

  • I’m hoping they learn of my vegan ways and adjust accordingly (i.e. not using my body as a battery, or at least not using my body as a battery FIRST).

  • Gabrielle

    Interesting question, Mars! (Sorry for calling you Mark – clearly a *human* error that our robotic counterparts would not have made! ;-)) There’s a lot of directions finding an answer could take, but I guess we’d have to know what kind of “connection” we’re talking about. The creation (robot) would be a reflection of its creator(s). Much of the distinction between man and machine has to do with emotion. And that, as we know at least on a marketing level, is the secret sauce.

    It will be interesting to see how effectively robots can / will imitate human emotion / psychology.

  • According to Ray Kurzweil, it should be coming in 2050. And thanks @johnbottom:disqus for introducing me to Vernor Vinge too. Have been getting into sci-fi in last couple of years and love me some interesting authors

  • Great article! Accurate too. The technological replacement won’t come all at once. It’ll fall job by job, career by career, industry by industry. I would disagree about the 75% unemployment. I think it’s forgetting to take into account the changing world too. Also, if robots are doing most of our jobs, then the question because is unemployment really bad? maybe we’ll be doing more things we’re passionate about, not as a job but as a hobby. This can start a long, and very interesting, conversation about the world but that’s for another time haha.

    Strongly agree that it’s important to embrace art. Not only to distinguish yourself but to help keep your mind sharp and creative. Spot patterns and trends, and stay ahead of everything.

  • I have seen other articles like this, but this one is by far the best so far. It is the first post I have read by you, Mars.

    Glad I am following you on G+ although I can’t remember why… Anyway, I doubt there will be a robot replacing you any time soon.

  • Not feeling safe with Google’s driverless car just yet, however I love your approach by making your work emotionally-essential. Just hope they aren’t developing a robot for that too…

  • Tim S.

    Wow. I couldn’t sleep so I’ve read your article earlier than I’ve “planned”.

    Thank you so much – it has changed something, deep. It feels like a confirmation of my own thoughts, but if you read them written from another person, it shows that you’re definitly running in the right direction.

    Cheers,

    Tim

  • Hey Mars,

    Listening to a Seth Godin interview the other day he said this while discussing the Connection Economy …

    “In 1740 there was zero percent unemployment because there were no jobs. If you worked, you worked for yourself. We are heading there really fast, again. And it’s going to be bumpy and painful along the way. And the question is do you want to get out in front of that?”

    The guy dispenses golden nuggets like this all the time. He’s smart and I really think he’s just being extra special nice by telling us all what’s coming … and so are you, Mars 😉 Wise words.

    The traditional job (and traditional middle class) will soon drift off into the ether.

    I suggest people read Ray Kurzweil’s “The Singularity is Near” if you don’t think Mars is speaking the truth. After that book, you’ll start to realize how quickly the old model … and life as we know it … will disappear.

  • Haha, thanx Jason.
    I’m hustling hard before C3PO is going to knock on my (home) office room 😉

  • I’m afraid they will in the future. Eventually everything will be replaced by a better robot, at least if our race survives that long.

  • Seth Godin – there’s a reason why the word GOD is in that name 😉
    Now for real – I have a lot about Ray Kurzweil (hard to ignore that guy), but I haven’t read ANYTHING by him. I’m going to check out that book. Thanx for sharing Craig.

  • It’s a heady tome, but push through and be amazed.

  • Darby

    Very true! It is no secret that production shifted from the U.S. to China over the last several years. What is not so well known is that the production is coming back to the U.S. however the jobs are going to automated plants.

  • Greg

    First of your posts to read Mars – this is sick. I’m always down with futurism, and creating content that can’t be doubled today or 10 years from now. You got it goin’ man. And word, bowling is boring 🙂

  • Hey Pavel, I always wonder – what will we do when there’s NO jobs “left” for the humans – will everyone be wealthy and be able to follow their passion ?

  • Great question, here are some of my thoughts on this. I don’t think it’s possible for there to not be jobs for humans. I guess it really depends on what a job is. A job is simply what we do to survive and thrive. For millennia, most people farmed to eat and feed their families. That was their “job.” Then due to better technology, we didn’t need so many people working the farms and they were free to do other things. That’s how craftsmen began appearing in our society. Trade started.

    That’s what society does. Wealth itself is relative so I don’t know if everyone will be wealthy. Probably not because not everyone was wealthy when our farming output increased or when we all started building cities. Well we be able to more follow our passions? Of course, because they don’t need to be doing things like accounting and manufacturing. Maybe people will travel more with their time. and have more time to learn? I don’t know. But I do know that what will NOT happen is 75% of the world’s population sitting at home saying I have no job thus I have nothing to do.

    It’ll certainly be a very interesting next few decades 🙂

  • Quimbalicious

    So, just wondering…when will they roll out the Robots of Enlightenment? Or maybe the better question to ask is, do you think the robots will become enlightened before us humans? And then what? I kind of think of that as the final frontier. At least for now. Until we get there. And then there will be something else beyond that. The truth is always stranger than what we don’t know we don’t know…

  • OFFS, is nobody going to call this out?

    We’ve had driverless commercial aircraft and trains for a decade, in operation. And cars, but nobody in their right mind will let them on the roads.

    Anybody can write a script to rip a public domain pdf, wrap a title page and colophon on it and upload it to Amazon. BFD.

    We’ve had robots in the workforce for two decades.

    Anybody who extrapolates a simple curve into the future – like Kurzweil – gets what they deserve http://www.itskeptic.org/content/exponential-systems

    This sounds like a bunch of dope-smoking teenagers. “Wow man imagine if…”

    There will always be jobs for people. Those jobs change just as they did in the transition to agricultural then industrial and now service economies.

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  • raw915

    Do not underestimate the power of engineering and profits. Businesses will do whatever it takes to maximize profits, and replacing expensive employees with inexpensive robots takes high priority. Robot technology is rapidly advancing, and it won’t be that many years before robots are capable of performing most human production and service tasks. The main impediment to near full elimination of employees is that robots and the unemployed are not consumers of the robots’ products and services. Businesses will be struggling to resolve this issue, perhaps bringing back some form of bartering.

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