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5 Skills of the Future That AI Cannot Replace

April 24, 2019


The Fourth Industrial Revolution is driving a new wave of Artificial Intelligence (AI) development that is already taking over the global workforce.

Many are excited about the myriad of benefits AI will provide businesses, while others are downright scared by the potential realization of Sci-Fi plots in which the machine controls the man.

While both of these sentiments are valid, there is only so much AI can do. Based on everything we know so far, the human element is and will be irreplaceable for a long time if not forever. But in order to understand how the human element fits in the new age of AI, you must learn about technological advancements and focus on building skills that robots can’t be capable of.

It’s no surprise that the rise of automation will change the workplace. While millions of jobs will be taken from the hands of humans, many others will be simultaneously created in the process as well.

Furthermore, according to a study conducted by Oxford University, some jobs have a higher automation potential than others. Here’s a quick example:

Image: Visual Capitalist

So, in a world where even the telemarketer can be replaced by a robot, what are the skills that humans can enhance in order to continue thriving?

Here are 5 skills that will make the difference between the man and the machine in 2020:

1. Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is not about amassing facts and knowledge. It is about a way of thinking that includes observation, analysis, interpretation, evaluation, reflection, inference, explanation, problem-solving, and decision making. This way of turning data into insightful interpretations is still only a human quality that is and will become an even more valuable resource for every industry.

2. Creativity

The ability to create new, original ideas at random, out of nothing, or based on existing data, is still a skill reserved only to humans. It is a skill that pays off today and will definitely become very sought after in the future.

3. Negotiation

Negotiation, whether in business or outside of it, is a must-have skill that determines outcomes for the parties involved. It is a necessary process that will not go away as long as humans are dealing with each other, especially in professional fields. Among other things, it is also supported by creativity and critical thinking. So it’s safe to say that you can’t send out a robot to negotiate outcomes for your business.

4. Empathy

Alongside cognitive flexibility and emotional intelligence, empathy helps you switch between different personas to accommodate the needs of your clients or understand the perspectives of your partners. Regardless of what industry you’re in, if you want to thrive, you need to become more empathetic towards your customers, workers, peers, and partners.

5. Adaptability

Last but not least, adaptability is the key to unlocking future success for individuals and businesses in the age of AI. This soft skill is characterized by a willingness to learn, environment monitoring, acknowledgment, and awareness. While it may sound like something a machine could do, it is, as of now, a career skill that humans can leverage to thrive in a changing landscape.


When asked if a machine could become smart enough to start running a company, Iya Khalil, co-founder of GNS Healthcare who uses AI and machine learning to improve health outcomes, said:

“We could design a machine that is smart enough to run a company, yes. The question is: Would it have the desire to? Would it have the creativity?”

So it’s safe to say that soft skills should become any business’s building foundation. With automation taking over the most daunting jobs and releasing humans from under repetitive tasks, humans capable to create, communicate, negotiate, and adapt will stand out and take the spotlight. The highlight of this is that humans will now have more time and resources to focus on their humanity and advance it in new and productive ways.