Need for honing real-time application skills

The pace of innovation in artificial intelligence (AI) has continued to accelerate in the past couple of years. AI scientists are devoted to creating machines that can perform tasks which require human intelligence. When AI can already drive our cars, take care of our customer service calls, and perform other daily tasks that have needed manual work until previously, it is no wonder that the degree of automation is only expected to increase. Speculations are already in order about the employment disruption that would be caused by AI-powered machines and bots. As a matter of fact, a study conducted by Oxford University estimates that AI could replace 47 percent of jobs in the US over the next two decades.

While on one hand artificial intelligence courses are enabling smarter innovations every day, the very same changes are also causing anxiety about the prospect of machines taking away jobs through automation. In the midst of all this uncertainty, it has become all the more important to hone real-time application skills that AI is unlikely to replace in the future. As a result, professionals and students alike are brainstorming over what these real-time application skills could be. While classrooms are teaching enough skills that enable graduates to excel in the technical sphere, the need to develop soft skills is now increasingly becoming a necessity.

Soft skills are specific interpersonal characteristics that enable a person to interact with each other effectively. These include real-world application skills that require emotional intelligence like communication, empathy and listening. These skills differ significantly from the hard skills that are taught in classrooms and on-the-job training. Hence, for many professionals and students, there is a need to understand these real-time application skills which will provide them with the required leverage in the plausible age of AI disruption.

Why real-time application skills?

Many highly skilled professions like law accountancy and IT security can be wholly or partially automated due to innovations in artificial intelligence. AI can easily replicate the careers that are based on a need of individuals who possess an in-depth domain knowledge, quick recall time, and learned skills. For instance, a researcher can make use of AI applications to efficiently classify relevant information, a task that until some years ago required several hours of strenuous manual labor.

On the other hand, fields such as social work, therapy, and clergy that primarily rely on human interactions are deemed to be the safest when it comes to threat from automation. Where automation works by analysing, predicting, and providing outputs based on an input, no algorithm is capable of producing authentic human interaction and empathy. Hence, it is now more crucial than ever before to invest in real-time application skills that refine traits of listening, tactical understanding, and compassion.

The Need-of-the-Hour skills

So what are the need of the hour skills that one needs to protect oneself from the impending age of automation? The professional skills that college doesnt teach are equally valued in the workplace across a range of roles in various industries. While classrooms would benefit from teaching these real-time application skills, taking extra classes to acquaint oneself with these arts is never a bad idea.


While most academic writing assignments require students to write content in the form of research papers, dissertations, scientific reports, English papers, and the like, most of the writing one performs in the classroom is miles away from the writing done in the working world. The working world requires one to be able to communicate crucial information as effectively and concisely as possible. Effective communication is difficult to automate as it requires human precision and understanding on how to put the information across most efficiently.

Contingency Planning

While classrooms teach the technical know-how to execute a project, it seldom teaches how to plan the course of actions in the project to ensure that the execution is performed on time while all other factors are being taken care of. With significant responsibilities and processes whose timelines may span for months and years, it is crucial to learn to develop a plan while keeping any possible external disturbances in mind. Therefore, developing an ability to plan and execute projects efficiently is an essential real-time application skill that is unlikely to be replaced by artificial intelligence.

Sales and Negotiation

Any successful business deal is preceded by a good session of selling and negotiation. It not only needs a good grasp of the basics of sales and negotiation but also necessitates the presence of good negotiation skills on the part of the negotiators. Both are vital business/soft skills that no AI-powered machine is likely to replicate.

Leadership and Management

Most classrooms dont provide students with a chance to lead a team of people. The real world, however, may require one to perform roles that not only require one to be an active leader but also need one to efficiently manage the problems that come with the job. Real leadership involves knowledge of who you are, recognising what your team needs, and then working actively upon these needs to drive maximum results. While an AI system can work on a series of inputs to dictate tasks to be performed, it lacks empathy and human understanding, traits that are crucial in a successful leader.

Real-time application skills define our interpersonal interactions and can drive growth forward even in a tech-driven world. While AI may automate tasks and jobs, it can never replace human capabilities of active listening and compassion which would always be needed for a variety of crucial roles. Hence, now is the best time for honing these real-time application skills that give you an edge not only in the age of automation but in augmenting your worth as a professional as well.

Authored by Vivek Kumar, president of Consumer Revenue at UpGrad, an online education platform providing industry oriented programmes in collaboration with world-class institutes.

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