The Empathy Economy and What It Will Mean in the Autonomous Age

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The Empathy Economy and What It Will Mean in the Autonomous AgeKate Hollowood
June 6, 2018

Automation is coming, and with it many jobs will be displaced. And according to some experts, this shift will see a change in what businesses value most in their employees.

As we approach the Autonomous Age, computers are increasingly being employed in tasks traditionally carried out by humans. Artificial intelligence is already replacing assembly line and factory workers, truck drivers and accountants. Between 400 million and 800 million of today's jobs will be automated by 2030, according to McKinsey.

However, there are three human capabilities that a computer cannot compete with, according to an article by Doug Clinton for the World Economic Forum. Clinton suggests that these qualities are creativity, community and empathy, with the latter being the most important in the future job market. He sets out that empathy – “the capacity for mutual understanding” – is what makes us human, and is therefore our most valuable capability.

Empathy will be manifested in industry in how businesses relate to their customers, making customer service assistants the most in-demand job. In this future “empathy economy”, Clinton envisions future marketplaces that match buyers and sellers of empathy, where freelance customer service experts can be hired by businesses to add a human touch to different customer interactions.

For example, a retailer like Target might employ people with high empathetic qualities and expert knowledge about specific products to deliver certain goods within their local area. “This moves the discussion away from price towards experience, which can command a premium,” writes Clinton.

Further areas of opportunity in the empathy economy will be services that either help build or augment human empathy. These might be simulated environments that help train employees to better understand what impacts another person’s feelings, or a CRM tool that helps staff recognize individual customers and their preferences.

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