Tech Companies Looking for Poets

artificial intelligence

You may find this surprising, but poets and playwrights have suddenly found themselves in high demand in technology companies.

The reason? Most of us know that there has been a proliferation of "chatbots" or robotic systems that mimic real conversations with people through artificial intelligence. From Apple’s Siri to Amazon’s Echo, it seems now that every device in our lives is capable of carrying on a conversation. This in turn has led to a demand for professionals to compose scripted responses that sound more “human” and less like a lifeless, emotionless machine.

A recent story in Quartz profiled an in-house team of 22 novelists, playwrights, screenwriters and poets that compose responses for Cortana, the company’s automated personal assistant. “Conversation seems simple because we do it every day but when you have to write it in a logical way that doesn’t feel broken, it takes a new kind of expertise that’s just burgeoning,” said editorial team leader Jonathan Foster, a former television and film screenwriter.

This is actually proof of a long-standing human capital phenomenon: as advances in technology eliminate or de-emphasize certain traditional jobs, many other jobs are created to meet the needs of a more technologically advanced society.

Today, we can see the arrival of many occupations that did not even exist 10 years ago, but which are now among the hottest professions available: app developers; Uber drivers; or social media managers. And it’s not just technology jobs. Other occupations have grown in importance from the collateral impact of technology on society.

For example, advances in medical technology mean people are living longer, and that has created a demand for caregivers to take care of the elderly. The impact of digital technology on all kinds of businesses has driven demand for data scientists to collect and analyze all the metrics available through online interactions.

How does all of this affect the individual and his or her career goals?

Given the rapid pace of technological change and innovation, it has become increasingly difficult for organizations to identify the exact skills and competencies they will need. The same holds true for training and development programs, succession plans and other components of what we consider to be the career management field. New models and methods are being discussed and tested all the time but we are still a long way off from being able to accurately identify the exact path talent needs to take to find success.

We do know that career development is now very non-linear. This means professionals will not only change jobs and employers more often, but they will have to acquire and develop a broader range of skills and experience. Those who cannot adapt to the changes may find they are less “employable,” and could be left behind.

Forward-thinking poets and playwrights are learning that technology is offering new opportunities outside the more traditional career paths. The millions who have their jobs affected by technology in the coming years need to start thinking now about how they too can find and obtain that new career path that seemed impossible in the past.

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