By Kurt Larsson
Business Agility, AI and Remaining Human
“The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most intelligent, caring and supervisory roles remaining.” Stephen Hawking.
It doesn’t take one of the world’s greatest living astrophysicists to understand there is a major shift going on in not only our workplaces, but in our society as a whole. The difference between what humans can do and what machines and computers are capable of is shifting, and at an accelerating rate. This reality becomes truly scary to those who currently earn a living by doing repetitive tasks or thinking in repeatable patterns; in other words, most of us.
If you are not able to distinguish what you do from that of a machine or a computer, then how can you really call yourself much more than a human doing? To remain a human being requires more!
The difference between a human doing and a human being?
Your ability to feel and relate.
Going forward, this will be most obvious in those roles that as Professor Hawking reminds us require feelings, leadership and creativity combined with intelligence. For the foreseeable future, this means that your economy will increasingly be influenced by your ability to listen, understand, empathize, create and lead. In short, the more you cultivate your ability to consciously feel, powerfully communicate and relate, the better chance you will have of getting paid. Transacting can be left to our increasingly sophisticated creations.
Even if increasing your ability to use your senses to relate is reduced down to the economics of being employed or not, just that is a positive start! Most of us are now being forced to learn that trying to compete with computers and machines only leads to increased stress and ultimately dis-ease.
“Life in a Spreadsheet”
A good friend, Tim Finucane, came up with this appropriate metaphor over ten years ago, and it rings truer today than when he first coined it. Since the advent of Lotus 1-2-3 and Microsoft Excel, 30 plus years ago, we have been able to measure job performance with increasing accuracy as well as more intrusiveness. Whereas, spreadsheets were first used to help us perform better, they have now morphed into being used to dictate and monitor increasingly challenging performance metrics. Is it any wonder that each little box in a spreadsheet is called a “cell”? Just like prison, these cells keep getting smaller and just like government budgets, each metric usually increases over time.
Spreadsheet technology gave way to the idea of Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. For your company, these are metrics based almost entirely upon historical performance, yet are prone to increase or tighten every time they are reviewed. This is fine for a machine that you can tweak and improve with newer technology, but when the key components are you and your co-worker, constant increases can stifle your creativity and crush your ability to care. The machine literally drains you of your humanity and what are human beings without that?
Powerful forces, problem or Agile Opportunity?
Thus we have two powerful forces working against us. Firstly, constantly increasing performance metrics keep limiting our ability to be human. Secondly, increasingly efficient computers and machines make obsolete more of our opportunities to earn. The good news is that those who understand these powerful forces and the change they are bringing can begin directly to increase their creativity, as well as hone their ability to sense, relate and lead.
What if this measurement trend also is forcing us to take more personal responsibility to relearn and improve the skills necessary for not just emotional, but social competence? Don’t think this is important? One of the seminars held at this year’s Davos World Economic Forum was titled, “Maintaining Your Humanity“. Even the Elites now get it.
Competing with an increasingly sophisticated computer or machine for jobs that technology can do better is not a winning strategy! Especially if you wish to remain healthy and prosperous. The one area that for the foreseeable future will remain the domain of humans is where feelings and relationships come into play. These areas include but are not limited to:
- Customer Service
- Music and arts
Each one of these areas of human endeavor requires feeling and sensitivity to succeed. Computers and machines cannot do that. Machines can measure and they can perform without rest, but they cannot not feel anything while performing or when they objectively measure and communicate the results. This job is left for us to interpret and enjoy, or not.
Conclusion: Remain Human, Get Agile, or Be Swallowed by the Technology
If you want to insure your ability to earn a living going forward, you need to begin now to optimize your use of computer and machine skills, while simultaneously rediscovering and mastering your ability to be vibrant human being. Missing this opportunity may not affect you tomorrow, but sooner or later the Technologically Weighted Future we are all tumbling into will catch up to even you!
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