Briefing Notes: Gettin’ Jiggy With It (Working Alongside Robots)

Published: January 26, 2020

“Those who seek to compete against AI on its own terms will lose out. In the long run, resistance may be futile, but symbiosis will be rewarded.” — Kai-Fu Lee


As news about the coronavirus spread like the virus itself, one headline caught my attention. A robot is treating the first confirmed US patient. He (the robot) isn’t taking care of the patient all on his (its?) own. A human doctor controls him. It’s just that the doctor sits outside the quarantined room while the robot roams free inside. Closer to the patient and unafraid of catching the virus himself.

As far as AI and robotics are concerned, I don’t subscribe to the doom and gloom scenarios painted by prognosticators. If anything, I’m excited to be witnessing how advanced technologies are transforming our work and our lives. We have front row seats to the unveiling of things!

But let’s not be naive about it all either. Work has and will continue to change in ways we can’t even imagine. And not necessarily because the robots are coming for our jobs. (Though some will.)

In the Forrester report, “The Future of Jobs, 2025: Working Side By Side With Robots,” lead author J.P. Gownder argues that fears of robots replacing humans exaggerate the impact of automation. The more salient issue, he says, is that people will find themselves working with automated systems more frequently. (Fair Warning: The report isn’t cheap. If your company won’t spring for it, check this summary from InformationWeek instead.)

Most workers—from welders to mortgage brokers to CEOs—will work alongside rapidly evolving machines. The nature of these occupations will likely change as a result. [Source: McKinsey Report]

Many of the jobs, across all industries around the world, will be redesigned. But this isn’t a time to panic. Rather it’s a call to understand that most future jobs will revolve around our relationship with technology. A level of tech fluency is required. Our ability to comprehend and work alongside the technologies that are emerging today will keep us relevant — no matter if we’re employed or self-employed.


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But how do we really feel about working next to these robots though? It turns out people have strong reactions when they’re working alongside robots, and the robot turns out to be better at their job than them. [Source: Forbes]


Sleepwalkers. A fantastic podcast that explores the thrill of the AI revolution hands-on, and to see how we can stay in control of our future.
The latest on Second Breaks: De-Risking Your Move to Self-Employment with FreshBooks’ Matt Baker. Listen to Ep 120 on your mobile device. Or on the website.


“As with any technological revolution, many workers will find the new [AI] tools both imperfect in their uses and potentially threatening in their implications. But these tools will only improve with time, and those who seek to compete against AI on its own terms will lose out. In the long run, resistance may be futile, but symbiosis will be rewarded. — Kai-Fu Lee. AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order


If there’s a more critical time NOT to simply be a cog in the system, to be the person your company or your clients would not want to live without — or replace with a robot — it’s now. Watch Seth Godin’s keynote speech from his bestselling book, Linchpin, in this YouTube video.


by Seth Godin
There used to be two teams in every workplace: management and labor. Now there’s a third team, the linchpins. These people figure out what to do when there’s no rule book.

“The only people who have a hope of becoming linchpins in any organization, who have any hope of changing anything for the better in real terms, are those who have the capacity to do “emotional work” at a high level […] The guys who just plod around the office corridors, just turning up for their paycheck…. Well, those guys don’t have a prayer, poor things. The world is just too interesting and competitive now.” — Hugh McLeod

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Registration for Start Your Side Business Mastermind closes on Wednesday, January 29th. This Mastermind experience is designed to help you push past the procrastination temptation, create a sense of personal accountability, and build momentum so that the doing gets easier and easier. If you’re looking to make 2020 the year to make solid progress on your side business, consider joining us for this winter cohort.


Nicole Karon, Transformation Coach and Mentor. She helps moms discover and nurture their best selves through the journey of life and motherhood.


Personally, I’d love to have my own Jarvis. But that’s a long ways away. Today, using AI tools is part of my work routine. For the podcast, as an example, I send out the weekly audio files for transcription. In the past, I used human transcribers. But the speech-to-text technology has gotten so much better (and cheaper) and I now use an AI tool for this task.

It’s not 100% accurate though. So when I need a more accurate transcription or when I have a less than clean audio file, I still send it to a human transcriber.

How have you used AI or seen robotics used at your company?

Best wishes for an awesome week ahead. Hit ‘reply’ and send over any comments, sleepwalking experiences and robot encounters.


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Briefing Notes and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on helping experienced professionals navigate an evolving work landscape so they can continue their impact and relevance in a changing world.

The world of work is changing.

Stay smart about it.

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