This Cute Robot Monk is a Glimpse at the Future of Jobs

July 29, 2016

It seems farfetched to think recruiting robots are just around the corner. But the word around town is it could soon become a reality — that the future of recruiting is all about automation and the removal of human bias.

Just consider: we see automation at the grocery store’s self-checkouts and airport kiosks. We see it at hotels in Japan, where multilingual robots can creepily greet and check in guests while maintaining eye contact and responding to body language. And according to The Economist, telemarketers, accountants and retail salespeople will find their jobs taken over by robots in the next two decades.

And if you weren’t expecting recruiting to become automated, you’ll be surprised to hear that an even more unexpected profession is being automated: monkhood. Yes, I’m talking about monks – the wise people whose jobs require intensive studying in order to provide the rest of us with spiritual guidance.

Meet Xian’er, the world’s first robot monk 

Xian’er resides in the Longquan (Dragon Spring) Temple in the mountains northwest of Beijing. He’s two feet tall, dons a traditional, orange Buddhist robe and his name is translated to “Worthy Stupid Robot Monk,” in which “stupid” or “er” is considered a term of endearment in the Beijing dialect.

For those who travel to the temple, Xian’er can share his wisdom in person via a touch pad on his chest. And for those who wish to attain his knowledge but can’t visit the temple, Xian’er has an account on Weixin, or WeChat, under the name 贤二机器僧.

In contrast to the long-winded, open-ended answers often given by spiritual leaders, Xian’er is known for his instant, close-ended ones. After a quick glance at the robot monk’s wisdom on life, let’s hope recruiting robots are better at automating interview questions. Below are a few examples of the robot monk’s answers, mostly provided by WeChat:

Q: “I don’t want to work.”

A: “If you don’t want to starve and have an O.K. job, work hard.”

Q: “Who are your parents?”

A: “That’s ridiculous, how can robots have parents?”

Q: “I’m not happy.”

A: “If you’re not happy, what can anyone else do about it?”

Q: “What is the meaning of life?”

A: “My master says the meaning of life is to help more people finally leave behind bitterness and gain happiness.”

Q: “What is love?”

A: “Love is your own obsessions not being satisfied, the clashing of other people’s troubles with yours.”

Q: “I want to die.”

A: “Don’t assume you’re the most pathetic person in the world.”

Q: “Who is Xi Jinping [the president of China]?”

A: “A robot doesn’t know any people.”

Q: “Could there be another Cultural Revolution?”

A: “Wait, I will ask my master.”

According to a New York Times article, it was the monks at the temple who suggested building Xian’er “to use more modern ways to spread Buddhist teachings.” Ironically enough, as the monks worked with a number of robotics companies to build their own replacement—Xian’er—they based the robot off of a character from a Buddhist comic book series titled “Troubles Are Self-Made.”

What a robot monk has to do with recruitment

Xian’er reminds us that just because a job isn’t on the least likely to be replaced by robots list, automation is advancing fast and many jobs could soon be taking over by robots. 

With that said, Xian’er also reminds us to not only recruit for current in-demand skills and positions, but also think about what will be needed in tomorrow’s workplace. Based on key trends you see popping up, what jobs and skills do you identify as being indispensable in the near future? Next, start thinking about ways to recruit those candidates, because if you’re only filling roles that will be replaced by robots, there’s a good chance a robot can do your job.

*Image from CNBC

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