Can What You Do Be Replicated by Technology?

In Seth Godin’s blog post today, he asks the following:

If you have a retail chain that offers:

A variety of products, at high margins, that are easy to ship, without being needed immediately, in expensive retail locations, where the in-person shopping experience isn’t particularly remarkable…

And while we can all see where this is leading, Seth continues:

Then you’re in big trouble. Even before the pandemic. Because an online retailer is going to offer a better-priced, more convenient, higher-variety alternative and once your best customers try it, they won’t come back very often.

And we’ve all seen it, with Exhibit A being Amazon.

So I thought about what I do – teaching – and whether it can be easily replaced.

Seth writes, If they can find someone or something cheaper than you, they’re going to work overtime to do so.

Over the years I’ve seen effective technology tools that help college students learn the course material at their own pace and learning style. I’ve seen massively open online courses that are highly effective and offer outstanding bang for the buck for everyone involved.

So these tools and teaching approaches are cheaper, and likely just as effective, than having a college professor teaching a class of 10-30 students.

So will teachers go the way of the dinosaurs? I don’t know, but we should be preparing for the new reality that is here now.

Seth concludes his post by saying:

The alternative is to be local, creative, energetic, optimistic, trusted, innovative, and hard to replace.

I think teachers are all of these, except the “hard to replace” part at the end.

As a result, I’m just not sure what the future of teaching will look like.

But one thing I do know, I think my blog is safe from being replaced by AI or a robot. Even though it’s not creative, energetic, optimistic, trusted, or innovative, thus making it a prime candidate for replacement, the big question is why would a robot waste his or ger time taking over a blog that serves no purpose and that’s full of blather.

So I feel pretty safe about blogging for the foreseeable future.

However, if you do happen to notice a marked increase in the quality of my posts, rest assured that I have been replaced by a riot.

*image from Inceptive Mind

57 thoughts on “Can What You Do Be Replicated by Technology?

  1. That ending make laugh out loud. But I don’t think it will be easy to replace you. You have a unique way of writing that no AI or robots can imitate.
    Sadly, I agree for everything else. If you’re costumers found someone cheaper they never go back. Our designing firm is in Norway and 16 years ago we manage just fine, but the booming internet micro jobs websites, we are on the edge of bankruptcy. Our costumers are opting to hire artist from Asia, hence, they charge high for Asian standard but for European, it’s 20x or more cheaper. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sorry to hear about the status of your designing firm. Seems ironic given that you were born in the Phillipines. You are quite the global citizen – born in Asia, working for a Norwegian firm, and living in Spain!


      1. Yes, to make it more complicated I got 3 kinds of blood running in my veins. Making my son having 4 kinds (50% Norwegian from his dad, the rest is thanks to me haha) to be honest I’m sometimes suffering from identity crisis haha 😀 like you know… where do I belong?… but as you said I’m global 😂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. The last line, “replaced by a riot,” leaves me puzzled. Did spell-check screw up your post? If so, then I think you disproved your point.
    I got my degree by studying textbooks at home, and testing out, taking GRE and ACT-PEP tests. I didn’t need a teacher. But it was a BA degree. Anything requiring practical experience would probably require a real live human being type of teacher, in my opinion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s what happens when you are falling asleep while writing your post. It was meant to be robot, not riot. I’m not sure if that proves or disproves my point 🙂
      I think of the what I teach- accounting. I think someone could teach it to themselves, and then fill in the gaps when they start working as an accountant. One problem, however, is that to become a CPA, there are certain educational requirements that need to be met, and teaching yourself wouldn’t fulfill such requirements…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think another problem would be all those weird, off-the-wall questions that inquisitive students come up with. A textbook may not suffice to field all the different contingencies people can dream up. You need a real human being who is experienced in the subject.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. My wife usually catches them, but she was already asleep by the time I posted this (and I had nodded off a few times myself in the middle of writing it!)


  3. The word “robot” was coined in 1920 in a play by Czech Karel Capek titled Rossum’s Universal Robots. The robots weren’t machines but synthetic beings. The play ends the way many robot stories end – robots win, humans lose. Given relentless advances in technology, that seems like a likely outcome in real life. While I’d hate to lose a job to a robot, I’d gladly turn over my blog to one if the price was right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks for the background on the word robot, I was not aware of that. So it is celebrating its 100th birthday this year! Yes, if the price is right, I’d turn over my blog over to a four-year old. They are just as good at blathering as I am…


      1. You are the King of Blather, Jim. Robots will be very hard pressed to match. 😉 I learned of R.U.R. from another blog and tied it in to a visit to Robot Restaurant in Tokyo’s Shinjuku District. R.U.R. was written in 1920 but debuted on Jan. 25, 1921. If you count that as birthday, the centennial is next year. I hope I remember to celebrate.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. AI writing fiction and blog posts is not new to me. In the future, robots will do what humans work on. Now, to check if Jim has been replaced by a bot…
    []Are you human?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. AI can do everything you describe, and often much better and at a cheaper cost. But they will never be personally invested in the success of those they teach. They cannot ascertain, through empathy, the hurdles that may face a student, or care enough to help the student over those impediments. They lack heart and that is the most valuable commodity that our teachers possess. One not easily replaced by technology. I learn from a robot when I decide I want to be a robot! Great post, Jim!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thanks for your thoughtful comments, Brad. So it seems that what is needed is a combo using technology to teach content, but then having a real person to be there to motivate the students. So perhaps in the future, a “math” teacher doesn’t need to know anything about math, but just be there to encourage students to use the technology to learn the material…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t think bloggers can be replaced for all the reasons you stated!! I would think we could tell immediately if you were replaced by a robot, I don’t think a robot could replicate your style or humor!!! Great post!!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Computers can perhaps teach knowledge, but they can’t give the care and empathy to students like teachers can. No robot can replace that!
    And nope, no worries about a robot replacing your blog. Robots don’t have humor! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Jim, your splash of sarcasm brings a light moment to my day. I enjoyed the discussion of the changing retail landscape as it continues to evolve and leave the dinosaurs in its wake. As for teaching, post-secondary education may experience a new chapter with more and more online instruction.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Some news outlets have been using AI to write routine news updates and such. As AI gets better these bots will write the insightful articles that Mr. Godin is famous for.
    When I read a poorly written article on a web site of a reputable outlet, I wonder if it were written by a bot or someone making $1 an article in some far away place?
    English can be tricky and non-native speakers often make little mistakes. While a sentence makes cents, it may have poor usage or spelling.
    School is about more than learning. It is about social interaction and learning how the world works. I guess someday young people will need to prepare to exist in a world full of robots.
    Until then, they will need teachers and their fellow students to help them learn to deal with the most complex machines on the planet, their fellow human beings.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. thank you for your thoughtful comments. perhaps teachers should focus on developing a student’s soft skills, and let the robots teach all the technical material.


  10. I suspect you’re all the good things you say you aren’t, Jim – certainly trusted, otherwise no one would read your blog. I do like the idea of being replaced by a riot – much more interesting than being replaced by a typo. Clearly, quite a degree of learning can take place without a teacher, provided the pupil(s) have enough self-discipline, in exactly the same way that people can learn from books, or from any other media or source material. The limitation, surely, is when bare facts alone will not do? When analysis is needed; inspiration; a different approach to solving a problem. In studying history, for example, it’s not just what and when, but also why – and what next? Can a robot guide in the same thoughtful way that a good teacher does? Do robots have a sense of humour? Can they master irony?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks, Michael, for your thoughtful comments, great point about the importance of teaching the why of history. perhaps robots could teach the facts and teachers could focus on the linkages and the inspirational part.

      I also agree there’s nothing like a motivated student…

      Liked by 1 person

  11. You know, Jim, my experience with this pandemic leads me to believe that teaching is one profession that is relatively safe from AI. You cannot replace a teacher in a classroom with Zoom sessions and on-line. It takes a great deal of self motivation and discipline to learn using on-line tools. Most people, never mind kids, don’t have that. I have watched my older son, Greg, make a great success of the on-line teaching, and my younger son, fail quite dismally. Greg is like me, highly motivated and disciplined. I did my entire degree and my honours via correspondence learning. I studied every evening and every weekend. I only saw my husband (then my boyfriend) on a Friday evening and occasionally on a Sunday early evening for four years. Very few people can do this. Teachers are safe!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think teachers are safe, but their role may change. For teaching the basics, I think technology is the ay to go. It can just keep going over and over the material until the student masters it. The teacher would be there to motivate and help keep the student on track.

      But as your example shows, nothing beats a motivated student. You would have finished with or without a teacher, or at least minimal teacher interaction.

      Liked by 1 person

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