The story that the only job in the future will be for one person who feeds a dog who watches all the robots isn't really true – there are plenty of jobs if you have what it takes to work with machines that know how to think.
Augmented or artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over factory work, manual labour and most recently, a lot of the intuitive, judgment-requiring work needed in professions such as law, medicine, pharmacy and finance.
AI still needs lots of humans to make it work and enhance its abilities, though – programmers, developers, managers and marketers, for example. Ironically, companies are now harnessing the powers of AI to help recruit and hire the right people to work with machine learning.
And perhaps just as ironically, one of the key qualities it takes to work in AI is the human version of intelligence.
Now that job descriptions have changed from "chief clerk" to things like "chief digital officer," the qualities needed for the new work force have changed, too, says Caitlin MacGregor, chief executive officer and co-founder of Plum, a Waterloo, Ont.-based online job recruiter. Finding the right fit for the AI world is a challenge for employers and job seekers alike.
"Most people will tell you that to work in AI you need traits like a 'growth mindset,' you need to be 'adaptable' and have an 'owner mentality' – those are the buzzwords. The reality is that the job itself has to be properly defined," Ms. MacGregor says.
Plum uses algorithms based on surveys filled out by both employers and prospective employees to come up with a shortlist of prospective matches – a bit like a dating app only with more professionally focused parameters.
One of the biggest challenges in the new economy is that many employers aren't sure how to determine who will fit a job, Ms. MacGregor says.
"They default to questions like where people went to school, what degrees they have, how many years they've worked, what titles they've had. Those markers never really were able to predict success; in this digital age, we need to be really clear what does," she says.
"We know based on 30 years of research that intelligence is the number one predictor of performance, across all roles and all industries. We need to be measuring for intelligence before we even pick up a résumé, instead of waiting until someone has been three months on the job," Ms. MacGregor adds.
Marlina Kinnersley, co-founder and CEO of another AI-based hiring platform called Fortay.co, says qualities that come along with intelligence, such as adaptability and flexible-thinking, are also important for new-economy employees.
"You want them to be able to think fast and learn on their feet," she says.
Ms. Kinnersley's Toronto-based platform also helps employers screen job hunters who will be good at "team alignment" or "culture fit." The ideal is someone who both thinks independently yet contributes ideas that will help the whole company or team.
Before Fortay even starts matching, the platform works with client companies to determine their own corporate culture. "That's their baseline to find the right candidates," she says.
So who fits? In a paper for the U.S.-based Brookings Institution, Christian Bodewig, a Brussels-based World Bank executive, lists the key qualities for workers in the new economy: cognitive skills such as numeracy and literacy, advanced problem solving and creative and critical thinking, social and behavioural skills such as conscientiousness, and the technical skills needed for particular jobs.
Put another way, The New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman recently quoted a U.S. employer who said the new economy looks for "someone who will get up, dress up, show up, shut up and never give up."
According to Mr. Bodewig, people start acquiring skills early in life, "but the window for building cognitive skills closes with late adolescence."
This is why, even if you are intelligent, an independent thinker and a team player, it's still important to develop math skills, says Henry Kim, associate professor of operations management and information systems at the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto.
He tells a story about his 11-year-old daughter to illustrate the point.
"She loves Anne of Green Gables, so when she grows up, she wants to run a café in Prince Edward Island [where Anne is set]. I told her that that is actually a job that AI robots can't do, so she should go for it," Dr. Kim explains.
"But you have to make money to open that café. Which means you'll need a good-paying job in a work force of the future, where a lot of the well-paying white-collar jobs we have today will not exist. However, there will definitely be well-paying jobs in the future for programming and working with AI robots.
"So, I tell her … do your math homework."