Let’s say you’re a banker. You went to school for it, you started at the bottom, and now you enjoy a mid-tier salaried position. You have a desk—your name’s on it. And then one day, after a meeting, it dawns on you: all this “AI taking our jobs” stuff? They’re talking about your job. The new computer system implemented in your bank is replacing you. You’re not a banker anymore. Now what?
Who are you? What do you do?
There’s a difference between work and a career. Work is an output. Your career is who you are. So what does that make you when your job gets automated? Your job is an important source of your identity. It literally gets you up in the morning; it gives you purpose and direction. If it’s taken over by AI, it will surely stir up some quite personal questions—and even make us reevaluate what it means to be human.
If we’re less defined by the traditional jobs we held before the bots came, we’ll need to find a new source of identity, purpose, and meaning. When our prehistoric ancestors started to use tools like fire, they freed up plenty of time to develop culture, and spurred on the evolution of our brains. We’ll have to fill the void left behind by our robotic tasks. That will mean we’ll be concerned with only the things that robots can’t do: things like using our creativity, empathy, and humanity. For some, that will mean pursuing passions that were formerly not financially sustainable. For others, their conventional jobs will transform into something totally new. Think about it—robots will still rely on human hands for design, integration, and management.
So, what’s the good news? To start, this changeover puts you in a good spot: you’re the link we need to make this transition to the AI-enriched workforce happen. As long as you have both a solid basis in your previous work and a good understanding of the new technology ahead—you’re a key facilitator. Think about it: no way would your parents be able to understand new technology, and chances are even slimmer your children will take the time to learn about the antiquated systems of your past. Your position is one of strength: yes, the identity crisis is tough, but you’re doing something truly incredible for the generations that follow.
Robots will be in our personal space: better to realize now there’s going to be a whole lot less man-machine separation. People and AI will have to not only coexist but share and interact with the AI ecosystem with a level of nuance akin to that of modern human society. But even more essential will be an internal change— a rewiring of how we understand our jobs. This identity crisis is not so scary if we look at it as not a loss but an adoption of the blank collar. We’ll no longer be white-collar and blue-collar workers with set functions. Once we get through the motion sickness of this change, we’re headed for an incredible explosion of personality and individuality. So, let’s automate what we can. It doesn’t matter what you are but who you are. You’re not just a banker. You’re you.
AI is working on our behalf, and it’s great. But there’s a tradeoff: all the extra help around the workplace is causing identity crises in those who have to work shoulder-to-shoulder with AI.
There’s a difference between work and a career. Work is an output. Your career is who you are. So what does that make you when your job gets automated?
Future of work, AI, identity, blank collar