An emerging consensus suggests that two characteristics make humans distinct from machines: care and empathy. Machines may trounce humans at repetitive, predictable, and production-heavy jobs. But technology still falls behind with tasks that require context, nuance, constant adaptation, and emotional intelligence.

Think of early child educators, psychiatrists, social workers, or nurses—those often poorly paid occupations that undergird the rest of the economy. These kinds of jobs that require a human touch, the thinking goes, will be among the last to be turned over to machines. If ever.

But there’s reason not to hold on too tightly to the idea that caregiving jobs will always be human jobs. Figuring out which positions are better for robots and which are better for humans will help us better understand what care is, what we’re willing to cede to machines, and why we should value this kind of work more.

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