As the Fourth Industrial Revolution – or Industry 4.0 – begins to challenge our perception of what it means to be human, it’s time to remind ourselves of what makes our species unique. Humans are able to encounter entirely new situations and respond to them by drawing parallels between their past experiences and their existing knowledge. Toby Walsh, professor of computer science at the National Information and Communications Technology Australia, refers to this as ‘common-sense reasoning’, and it’s something that can’t be replicated in machines.

We know how we’re different to machines, but how does this translate into skills that benefit us in the workplace?


Humans are not only capable of showing emotions, but they can understand them too. We’re able to show empathy to our peers, and in the workplace this can strengthen the bonds between team members. When we’re connecting with those around us, we’re also far more productive – and it’s what makes us great leaders too. With 96 per cent of employees recognising the importance of their employers demonstrating empathy at work, this is certainly a skill that will be valued for years to come.


Our communication skills are surprisingly reliant on empathy, and it’s an essential skill for leaders. It helps them to be better negotiators and work more effectively with the rest of the team. To make the most of their employees’ natural talent, leaders must be able to recognise the areas where staff can fully utilise their skills – or, equally, adapt their role to better meet their own personal needs and those of the business.


Artificial intelligence is reliant on pre-determined rules and restrictions, but creativity is all about breaking boundaries and thinking outside the box. Sure, it can re-create existing works of art and produce beautiful imagery – but it’s simply mimicking something that already exists. As we are challenged to adapt to new technologies and and alternative ways of working, the power of a creative mindset shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s what will set us apart from the machines – at least for the time being.

Complex problem solving

While soft skills are essential, humans must also have the technological capacity to design, install and maintain the machines that are shaping our future. No matter how intelligent robots are, we – currently – need to work alongside them to ensure everything runs smoothly. As humans, we need to use our complex problem solving skills to recognise links between neighouring industries and opportunities to advance the technology we’re building. From data science to software development, or cybersecurity to DevOps, this is – and will continue to be – an essential skill in the technology sector.

The complexity of the human brain means that the skills that make us uniquely human are all closely interlinked, with one advantage leading to another. As a result, it’s much harder to replicate this with artificial intelligence – making these skills a top priority for recruiters.