Google’s Eric Schmidt has famously said that every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003. As computing gets more powerful, it will seem like this data has a life of its own. And it will. You’ll have machines talking to machines, computers talking to computers, all processing this data. But what will it feel like to work in this coming age of big data?
Data will be our colleagues and our employees. And, like all employees, they will need a good manager – an algorithm. An algorithm is really just a sequential series of steps that processes data. We will need to “train” our algorithms to have a better understanding of humans and how to make human lives better. After all, we are their bosses.
As we look to 2026 it might appear that computers and data will overrun the workplace. But remember, a computer will never clean a bathroom sink. At least in the near future, computers and data won’t replace the paper towels in the bathroom. But a computer will write up your local little League scores and a computer will operate on your spine. (Hint, this is already happening.)
This has broad implications for what we think of as valuable skills and employees in the workplace. Today we value journalists and surgeons much more than janitors or apple pickers, but in 2026 we may think very differently. We will need to understand what humans are really good at and foster those skills, outsourcing the rest to the brilliant intelligence and efficiency of the future.
One of the many things humans are really good at is communicating and collaborating with other humans. Turns out computers and big data are really bad at it.
As we look into the future of work I’m interested to hear what you think humans a really good at.
What can a human do that a machine will never replace?