3 December 2015

Can human-centered design help people prevail over machines in the workplace?

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Instead of asking ourselves which jobs will be replaced, writes Brooks Rainwater, we need to shift the conversation to answer the question: what jobs do we want humans to do?

We must move the policy discussion away from job retraining towards job rethinking. This begins with embracing the power of human-centered work. Human-centered work is the idea that humans have critical comparative advantages that must be embraced, nurtured, and developed. By embracing those things that machines can do better and bolstering the areas where we thrive—areas such as creativity, craftsmanship, and human judgment—we will be able to harness the power of these technological changes to create products and industries that are entirely new.

Even though great swaths of the workforce could be automated, it does not follow that we as a society will always want to take that path. We could see entrepreneurship flourish in a new renaissance where automation unlocks more creativity and innovation in humans as people are freed from those repetitive tasks and rote production roles that we have been saddled with for generations. This is the future we must embrace and shepherd forward.

Brooks Rainwater is the Director of the City Solutions and Applied Research Center at the National League of Cities.

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