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March 12th, 2018

“The Future of Work is Learning” – Heather McGowan

Automation and Artificial Intelligence are words that are used interchangeably but are very different. Automation is defined as “automatically controlled operation of an apparatus, process, or system by mechanical or electronic devices that take the place of human labor” (Merriam Webster) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)  is the ability of machines that can mimic intelligent human behavior. That being said, should humans be worried that their job will be replaced by automation or worse artificial intelligence? We talked with Heather McGowan, a previous Industrial Designer and now futurist, keynote speaker, and consultant to see what she has to say about the topic. McGowan focuses on non-biological awareness; she explains that humans should be aware of becoming too predictable. Adding, non-biological mechanisms can take over just about anything, and if individuals are not continuously learning and changing their skillsets, then their jobs can and will be imitated. When we asked her to elaborate more on her philosophy that discusses an old paradigm versus emerging reality, McGowan says, “As humans, we are taught to learn to do one thing and be great at it, and maybe that one thing is going to change a few times. However, the reality is that technology is changing, preparedness is changing, and most are going to have more than one job and learn about many different fields. The idea is that being proficient in just one area is no longer good enough. Becoming aware and well-rounded is the future today, and “the future of work is learning” (McGowan).


After speaking with McGowan, we decided to see what others had to say about AI and automation concerning the workforce today. According to Lindsay Dodgson, a reporter at Business Insider, nine jobs are least likely to be taken over by machines. These results were generated from data collected by Indeed’s EMEA Economist Mariano Mamertino:

  1. A chef  – A robot may be able to prepare food but to be able to make food along with being creative, not likely.
  2. Marketing, communications, and design professionals are considered safe from machine learning due to critical thinking and creativity skills or a lack thereof.
  3. Healthcare professionals are deemed safe since machines cannot imitate the communication and social interaction needed between patients, nurses, and doctors.
  4. Education and training careers cannot be completely replaced since learning from a human allows information to stick better than if it were taught robotically.
  5. Cyber security experts are believed to be safe since the demand for these jobs surpasses applicant interest. Plus, it may be difficult to train a robot for anomalies within the data
  6. Human resources is a valuable aspect of businesses because HR professionals can read others and interact with others in a way that robots would not be able to do.
  7. Delivery or logistics management jobs are viewed as secure since the logistics sector will need a person to oversee and manage the transactions.
  8. Data scientists are protected since there is only so much a machine can do with algorithms a code.
  9. Gig-work such as Uber and freelance work requires flexibility and independence, which may be difficult for a robot to perfect.

Another article found in The Guardian states, “Jobs won’t entirely disappear; many will simply be redefined. But people will likely lack new skillsets required for new roles and be out of work anyway” (Mahdawi & Chalabi, 2017). This statement confirms Heather McGowan’s philosophy – the future of work is learning. To avoid non-biological mechanisms from replacing you, you must be aware of changes, respond to them, and continue to learn.



Dodgson, L. (2017, May 25). 9 ‘Future-proof’ Careers, According to the World’s Largest Job Site. Retrieved from

Mahdawi, A., & Chalabi, M. (2017, June 26). What jobs will still be around in 20 years? Read this to prepare your future. Retrieved from

Merriam Webster. (n.d.). Automation. Retrieved from

About the Author

Bart Brejcha
As the main instructor for Design-engine Bart teaches many of the PTC Creo & the Solidworks Surfacing classes. When he is not developing new training material you will find him on motorcycles, bicycles or on a skateboard. He loves any kind of racing on two wheels.

Design Engine Industrial Design Training Pro Engineer

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