15 skills that will never be automatable

We’ve landed a front-row seat to the rise of the robots. Automation abilities grow around us, and robots physical and otherwise take on more and more of our daily tasks.

But amidst the disruption and change, there are some skills that automation hasn’t touched.

Indeed, some things are (and always will be) unique to humans. Here are 15 examples of the skills that will never be fully automatable.

1.    Empathy

Genuine empathy for another will never be automatable. Empathy involves an emotional understanding with others that lets you feel how they do. Machines cannot feel — so even if emotion AI enters the fray, it can only pretend to understand how someone is feeling.

2. Flexibility

Automation does what you tell it. AI does what it’s trained to do. Neither of them holds talent for things outside of their scope. They follow algorithms — instructions. If that algorithm doesn’t work, they don’t have another path.

3. Adaptability

When things go wrong with automation currently, it’s unable to notice, let alone adapt. But, even if in the future it can recognise its failings, adapting to spontaneous situations needs flexibility and problem-solving. And these are skills beyond automation.

4.    Leadership

Good leaders connect with their teams on a human level. They make decisions, plan, and motivate the team. None of these abilities are automatable. And human teams are highly unlikely to find connection, respect or motivation from a computer.

5.    Integrity

Acting with integrity sometimes means trusting your moral compass over orders. Recognising right from wrong is full of nuance, and you cannot act with integrity without knowing the difference. Automation blindly obeys. It has no moral compass, and so integrity is not automatable.

6.     Loyalty

Automation won’t make a human-like connection with you. Even if it becomes able to mimic one, it’ll ultimately always do as it’s told. Regardless, that is, of who gives the instruction. Loyalty, then, is not an automatable trait.

7.    Critical thinking and judgement

Critical thinking means objectively analysing and evaluating an issue. Automation takes input and manipulates it using rules. It doesn’t question that input or ponder intricacies. It won’t weigh up the potential interpretations.  At best, the objectivity is automatable. The judgements? Less so.

8.    Decision-making

AI is making some elements of decision-making automatable. I.e. it can offer insights that aids decisions. But for big business decisions, the final choice will always be something left to a human mind.

9.    Creativity

Automation works by using things we’ve already created, and processes we already know. Even AIs that create ‘art’ do not do so alone. The ability to make, write, draw, invent and create new things and ideas, then, will never be fully automatable.

10.  Curiosity

Creativity, innovation and problem-solving all get their fuel from curiosity. What if we could see, do, hear this? Why does that happen? What makes this good? Automation, meanwhile, doesn’t seek answers past what’s known.

11.  Passion

For humans, passion is a driving force. The feeling of intense enthusiasm for what you do creates value. It guarantees quality because you care deeply about your output. But bots don’t have strong feelings and so, as an intense emotion, passion is not automatable.

12.  Ambition

On a similar vein, ambition isn’t automatable either. Bots are never going to want things. They’re tools driven by humans, not by goals. They have no desire to achieve more than you’ve asked of them. They never will.

13.  Work ethic

Having a good work ethic keeps us focused. It makes us organised; makes us take responsibility for our workload. Automation, meanwhile, isn’t going to strive to do more than you tell it to do. 

14.  Positivity

Positivity is an often-underrated office skill. It enables a person to encourage others, frame failings and setbacks in a positive light, and boost the office atmosphere. It’s a skill that calls for emotion and out-of-the-box thinking, meaning it’s not automatable.

15.  Respect

Automation isn’t going to appreciate your efforts. It’s not going to do things just to please you. It’s not going to admire you or recognise the value of your abilities. Respect will never be automatable.

Uniquely human

For all the fear of robots taking over everything, there are some skills beyond machines. From soft skills to complex thought, skills and values unique to humans will always exist.

Useful links

Automation, not automagic

Business process automation is not AI

Automation and the nature of effort