Buckle Up for The Future

 “Shows like Westworld show a future world of interaction between humans and robots, which may not be that future-fetched, according to a social media marketer who recommends beginning to cope now for being replaced by a smart machine.”

“Shows like Westworld show a future world of interaction between humans and robots, which may not be that future-fetched, according to a social media marketer who recommends beginning to cope now for being replaced by a smart machine.”

If you are a Westworld fan, you already are steeped in the mysterious interactions among humans, robots and a clandestine corporation. The popular HBO show, which is starting its second season, is more like a video game than real life – or is it?

Larry Kim, CEO of MobileMonkey and a social media marketer, has identified six “massive issues in play” that will impact marketing, employment and possibly our everyday lives. Two of the most striking and perhaps oppositional trends are people living longer and the rise of smart machines that can replace a lot of the work humans do now. It could mean more time in life to be unemployed.

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Kim’s futuristic trends led him to create an infographic listing 10 “critical skills” that he says people will be in high demand in workplaces as early as 2020. One of the most important skills, according to Kim, will be the ability to come up with solutions.

Other skills Kim identifies include cross-cultural competency, new media literacy, adaptive thinking and an ability to work productively in virtual collaborative settings. These skills reflect a more diverse, global economy, a rapidly changing media and information-sharing environment and a premium on getting results. You may be working in your bedroom or at Starbucks, but you will be part of a virtual team.

Apart from noting the need for computational thinking, being trans-disciplinary and having a design mindset, Kim doesn’t offer anything more specific about surviving in an emerging age of artificial intelligence, smart machines and robotic companions (and, eventually) overlords.

Which brings us back to Westworld.  Its co-founder, Jonathan Nolan, calls the show a “metaphor.” Humans show up at a theme park with naughty intentions in which they indulge with robotic hosts. But beyond the sci-fi drama and “evolution of sin,” the underlying question posed by the show deals with human interaction with smart machines that can do more than control the temperature in our houses or alert us when we veer out of a highway lane.

Part of the appeal of the show is that it doesn’t show a static future. Both humans and machines are evolving. Women gain more power and machines become more capable. There also is an intensifying degree of violence.

Kim’s recommended work skills are pitched more for the near term, which is itself fairly unsettling. Westworld casts a glance further into the future, though who knows how far in the future. Between Kim and Westworld, we should get the picture that change is coming, and the changes wrought by artificial intelligence could profoundly affect human life, for good and not-so-good. Westworld may not turn out to be a theme park.