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Monday, August 7, 2017

No More Woe-botics

There is a major change approaching in the workplace. Get ready for job displacement in the age of robots. My blog last week offered the worrisome prospect that when serious unemployment results from advancing technology, people can get aggressively reactive. Witness the rise of The Luddites in the 19th century. I cited a recent Christianity Today article as evidence.

More robotic news has surfaced. Fast Company reports that a therapy robot lives in Facebook Messenger ready to deal with your anxiety. Seriously. The digital therapist has a name. Woebot. He’s a chatbox who is able to offer the wisdom of cognitive behavior therapy. Better yet, Woebot is available for counsel 24/7.

To get the help you need, simply start a Messenger conversation with Woebot. "He" will then reach out to you on a daily basis. Most of your conversation will check on your feelings and your life perspective. You will then have a pseudo conversation that may well include humor. All good therapists use humor.

Be not deceived. Woebot needs to make a living. The team behind Woebot charges $12 per week or $39 per month. That is about 5% the cost of regular therapy sessions. See? You feel better already.

My blog ended last week with assurance that I would pass along words of hope for the future this week. And I shall. Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig, and Ben Pring have combined to author, What to Do when Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data. They offer some of the encouragement we need.

Paul Roering is Chief Strategy Officer for Cognizant's Digital Business. He observed, “People skills are more and more important in an era where we have powerful and pervasive technology. It sounds counterintuitive, but to beat the bot, you need to be more human.” Maybe Woebot can counsel you on how to do that. has a good interview with two of the authors of What to Do when Machines Do Everything: Malcolm Frank and Paul Roehrig. Frank gives us a critical piece of hope news. He refused the commonly promoted idea that 47% of jobs are going to go away. His response, “But when you look at what the actual research said, it doesn’t say that. What it says is that a lot of jobs at the task level will be changed and impacted by technology, and that's what we call enhancement. So, some aspects of work will be automated away…So yes, some jobs.”

For people of the Christian faith, we have an important hope mission ahead. And it’s spelled out well in the second of the two articles I previously referenced. This one is titled, “How to Find Hope in the Humanless Economy.”

I think this is a must read for those who have a heart for people who become unemployed and are paralyzed by fear and/or depression. There is real ministry opportunity here. And the solution is centered around one of God’s very best gifts to us as humans: creativity! As is noted, “…if we accept the creation narrative as our overarching story, humans will never lack for value, for relationship, and for opportunities to work and serve.”

The article ends with this important reminder from the Gospel of Matthew: “Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matthew 6:34)

I hope Woebot knows his Bible really well. Every wise counselor should read the Good Book. In fact, I recommend it for everybody.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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