The Relationship Between Humans and Technology—and Work

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Excerpt from “Career Fear (and How to Beat It)” by Somi Arian (Kogan Page, 2020)

My book, “Career Fear (and How to Beat It),” is not another manual on how to find a good job; it is a wake-up call for society at large, and young people, in particular, regarding the impact of technology on the career landscape and the future of business and the economy.

The premise of the book is a three-act story of the relationship between humans and technology:

  • Context: The digital revolution and artificial intelligence are changing the business landscape in fundamental ways.
  • Problem: We are not prepared and equipped with the skills and knowledge for dealing with the fast pace of technology and impending job losses.
  • Resolution: We can innovate and create new industries and career paths by learning four crucial human skills.

There are three keywords for breaking the code of career success and fulfilment in life:

1. Perspective

2. Mindset

3. (Human) Skills

Part One: Perspective

History is crucial in gaining perspective on the future. As humans, we have three primary functionalities that allow us to survive and thrive in life. These functionalities are physical, mental, and emotional. The concept of work was born the moment we decided to outsource some of our functionalities by using animals, forces of nature, or other humans. Technology is the tool we use to facilitate this act of outsourcing. Work is the performance of a given functionality itself. Perhaps the earliest example of outsourcing was when we used fire to cook our food—we outsourced part of our digestion to fire; therefore, some of our earliest forms of technology were created around harnessing the power of fire.

In the beginning, humans were only able to outsource their physical functions. The first two Industrial Revolutions enabled us to do this on a large scale, and that was when the concept of management was born to help employers and employees keep track of time vs. productivity and wages. This was the decisive point where mindfulness was lost in the workplace, as people were physically present at work but began to daydream in a countdown to finish the day and go home.

There has been a correlation between the growth of technology and the loss of mindfulness and it seems this trend will continue until we make a conscious choice to integrate mindfulness in our work and lives. 

Part Two: Mindset

When Socrates said, “Know thyself,” he didn’t say how to do it. In knowing ourselves, we study the OCEAN model, which helps us understand our personality traits, also known as The Big Five:

  • Openness
  • Consciousness
  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Neuroticism

Understanding these personality traits also will help us to apply them to our relationship with others, which is the foundation of emotional intelligence (discussed in Part Three).

Part Three: (Human) Skills

Four (human) skills we need to develop to be successful in the age of technological disruptions are Emotional Intelligence, Critical Thinking, Contextual Creativity, and Mindfulness. The emphasis on the human aspect is to differentiate these skills from technical skills such as math and science.

Mindfulness is the foundation of the other three skills. It allows us to stay fully engaged and be present in any situation we deal with, which has never been more critical than it is today in our fast-paced world of constant distractions. As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more integrated into all aspects of our lives, we risk losing essential skills that make us human and differentiate us from our machines. For example, research shows that young people’s level of emotional intelligence has declined since the advent of digital technologies. Furthermore, our reliance on AI and automation could decrease our ability to think critically in our decision-making.

One of the areas where critical thinking becomes paramount is in defining success and setting realistic goals. This is becoming more difficult for young people due to the impact of social media algorithms conditioning them to pursue a fast-paced path to success that is often statistically improbable and can lead to burn out.

The human skill, contextual creativity, is different from “narrow creativity,” which machines can replicate. Contextual creativity relies on tuning into the subjectivity of others and our intuition to come up with unique and creative ways to alleviate other people’s suffering or enhance their experience of life.

The combination of these human skills aims to give us the tools we need to innovate and set own own path and create new industries that are as of yet unimagined.

Excerpt from “Career Fear (and How to Beat It)” by Somi Arian (Kogan Page, 2020).

Somi Arian is a tech philosopher, author, award-winning filmmaker, entrepreneur, and a LinkedIn-Top-Voice in the UK. Her documentary, The Millennial Disruption, won three international awards. Arian is the founder of Smart Cookie Media, a digital marketing firm focused on developing thought leadership and profile building for purpose-driven entrepreneurs and industry leaders. She is also the co-founder of Career Drive, an online platform that uses entertainment to teach emotional intelligence, and an investor and advisory board member of wearable technology startup NuroKor Bioelectronics. With a background in philosophy of science and technology and over a decade of experience in film and TV, Arian applies an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the impact of technology on consumer behavior and the future of work. She give talks and workshops internationally on the impact of technology on society at large, and the business landscape, future of work, digital marketing, and Millennials and Generation Z, in particular. Her latest book is: “Career Fear (and How to Beat It).”