What if we were to reframe the situation? What if, rather than asking the traditional question—What tasks currently performed by humans will soon be done more cheaply and rapidly by machines?—we ask a new one: What new feats might people achieve if they had better thinking machines to assist them? Instead of seeing work as a zero-sum game with machines taking an ever greater share, we might see growing possibilities for employment. We could reframe the threat of automation as an opportunity for augmentation.
The two of us have been looking at cases in which knowledge workers collaborate with machines to do things that neither could do well on their own. And as automation makes greater incursions into their workplaces, these people respond with a surprisingly broad repertoire of moves. Conventional wisdom is that as machines threaten their livelihood, humans must invest in ever higher levels of formal education to keep ahead. In truth, as we will discuss below, smart people are taking five approaches to making their peace with smart machines.