The Robot Curve

By David

Marty Neumeier’s Metaskills: Five Talents for the Robotic Age is well worth a read if, like me, you often wonder what it is exactly that you do, and how it has changed over the years. It turns out that we are locked in a race to stay ahead of the machines with creativity our competitive advantage… for now. Neumeier conjures up the Robot Curve to illustrate why cultivating creativity is the only way for us to stay ahead of the machines:

The Robot Curve is a waterfall of opportunity that flows endlessly from the creative to the automated.

As work becomes routinised, and then mechanised, its value decreases regardless of how complex the task is for a human to perform.

Thinking about my own career: I used to do things that required a fair amount of skill, but some were repetitive. In time they were partly automated by new frameworks and boilerplates. I wasn’t too happy about it claiming: ‘I can do it better’, experiencing it as a threat and not an opportunity.

Seizing the opportunities that emerge from automation requires that we take more risk in our approach to life, work, and learning. We have to be more honest, open, and robust – antifragile. If we don’t we’ll start the slow descent down the Robot Curve. Moving too far down the curve our skills become ‘brittle’ – soon to be overtaken by machines rising up form the bottom of the curve.

But this does not mean that machines will replace us. Neumeier comforts – and cautions:

We have an unfounded fear that machines will someday start thinking like humans. What we should really fear is that humans have already started thinking like machines.