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From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development
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12/27/16
Job Polarization, Black Elephant events and Cognification
Filed under: Position Searching, Post-docs, Observ. Trends, Alternate Career Paths
Posted by: site admin @ 3:34 pm

It is amazing to realize the rapid changes in career
management factors we face.  Psychology, economics and
computer-automation-robotics-artificial-intelligence-and
-inference are longer term factors for our careers.  

Let me list some specific examples:
.
ROUTINE TASK AUTOMATION 
Computer capital supported by financialization (where highly
leveraged loans to automate functions with software and 
robotics ) puts middle skilled workers in precarious straits.
[Read:  recent graduates with no experience or internships.]
.
Those who do non-routine work (low-paid, unskilled and
richly paid, highly skilled) are in demand.  We see this Job
Polarization in many situations with supporting elements 
being stagnating wages and reallocation of roles from 
specialization to variety of roles with less specialization.
.
Thanks to advances in deep learning and AI, computers can 
perform not only manual but also cognitive tasks better and
faster than humans.  This augers the result that highly trained
specialists are replaced by internet enhanced software, a
specific example is radiologists since much of their work
are “routine cognitive tasks.”
.
BLACK ELEPHANT SITUATIONS
In my day it was the Arab Oil Embargo that set us in a path
for alternate energy sources, energy independence and electric
vehicles.
.
Tom Friedman in his recent book Thanks for Being Late. wrote:
” A black elephant is a cross between a black swan, a low
probability, unanticipated event with enormous ramifications–
and the elephant in the room, a problem that is widely visible to 
everyone, yet no one wants to address, even though we
absolutely know that one day we will have vast, black-swan-like
consequences.”  Ocean acidification is an example.
.
Black elephant events can provide a once in a lifetime opportunity 
or the end of the line for industries (think chemical photography), 
companies, and directions in our careers.
.
 COGNIFYING AND CONTINUOUS LEARNING
Adding AI to various tasks enables us to do more at lower cost and
higher efficiency.   Add AI to laundry to tell washing machines to
adjust to the contents of each load as directed by the clothes (sensors).
.
AI added to chemistry can aid discoverability and optimization by 
performing virtual experiments to reduce the number of lab
experiments to reach a goal.  Think of the way Netflix and Kindle
come up with customer recommendations.
.
This is cognifying.  All cognition is specialized.  In this continuous
learning process we need to work with AI and robots and let
these tools take our routine tasks and help us dream up
new work that matters.  There are four classes of jobs:
.
1.  Jobs humans can do, but robots can do even better.
highway driving, tax preparation, routine x-ray analysis,
pre-trial evidence gathering, etc.
.
2.  Jobs humans cannot do, but robots can.
remote locations, hazardous environments, monitoring,
then signalling an alarm.  Jobs that would not be done without
robots and sensors.
.
3. Jobs we did not know we wanted done.  
.
4.  Jobs only humans can do– at first. 
creativity (on what we should do), new situations, one of a
kind roles.
Our human assignment should be to keep making jobs for
robots and software.

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