How tech layoffs herald the shift towards an empathy-driven job market

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Over 260,000 tech jobs were cut in 2023, and the trend continues into 2024, even though other job areas are booming.

This wave of layoffs in the tech world is hinting at a bigger change in the job market that many are missing, according to Roland Rust from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Rust and his colleague Ming-Hui Huang saw this coming years ago. They wrote about it in 2018, backed it up with more research in 2019, and then laid out the whole scenario in their 2021 book, “The Feeling Economy: How Artificial Intelligence is Creating the Era of Empathy.”

Rust explains that as artificial intelligence (AI) gets better at doing the “thinking” jobs, humans will need to focus more on “feeling” jobs. These are jobs that require what computers can’t do (yet), like understanding emotions, being creative, and genuinely connecting with other people.

He gives an example of how jobs are already changing. Financial analysts, who used to spend their days crunching numbers, are now using AI for the heavy lifting and focusing more on building relationships with their clients.

Similarly, customer service has evolved; routine questions are now answered by AI chatbots, leaving the human reps to deal with more complex issues that require a human touch.

This shift towards more emotionally driven jobs is not just a prediction; it’s happening now. Rust points out a story from The Washington Post about someone who left the tech field to study psychology, aligning perfectly with their predictions.

Rust argues that this shift means we should rethink education, too. Instead of pushing everyone into science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), we should also value and teach people skills, which are becoming more important than ever in the workplace. Google’s own research found that the key to success at their company wasn’t STEM skills but rather people skills.

In summary, the rapid improvement of AI is not just changing the tech industry; it’s transforming the entire job market. As thinking jobs are replaced by machines, the jobs that require a human touch, empathy, creativity, and emotional intelligence—the essence of the “Feeling Economy”—are becoming more crucial.

Rust’s message is clear: in a world run by machines, being human is more valuable than ever.

Source: University of Maryland