Change can bring concerns. Every time there is a “change”, we tend to fear for the worse.
A fear that has been haunting us more and more recently is that one day we could be replaced by AI. The idea of being made redundant is upsetting per se, but being made redundant because your job role can be easily replaced by a robot is even more daunting and it could even make us feel worthless. That’s understandable.
However, let’s look back on one of the major turning points in history which influenced the workplace: the Industrial Revolution, from hand production to machines, new production processes and development of machine tools…
At the time this revolution was not welcomed by everyone, especially by those who made their living from working in these factories when everything was hand produced. So when automation was introduced, there was turmoil amongst workers.
Let’s take the Luddites for example, an organisation of English textile workers in the 19th Century, famous for destroying textile machinery as a form of protest because they feared that their skills would go to waste as machines would replace their role in the industry.
What they could not visualise is that the use of the machines would not only create new job roles but would help those industries developed and evolve. In the textile industry for example, there was suddenly an increased demand for creative designers, brand and marketing executives and technicians and engineers for the maintenance of the machines in the factories. The automation of the industry enabled it to scale radically and become the global industry it is today…which is continuing to automate and continuing to create new jobs.
Technology should be seen as an enabling element that is developed to improve our performances at work.
If you read Peter Diamandis’ “Abundance” there will come a moment of Singularity when machines take over all human skills. I was Peter’s intern for a year back in 1989 and he’s a visionary for sure but even the most advanced technologies frustrate us: from supermarkets’ self-check-outs that tells you off because apparently you have or have not placed an item in the bagging area, to the “options-roulette” of a call centre hoping to speak to a person… a machine fails to fully understand our emotional needs, its functions are limited to its algorithms and cannot contextualise an emotion or nuance that accompanies a request.
And even though making mistakes is part of being human, the difference between a technical glitch of an AI to the errors we make, is that we humans have a multidimensional interpretation of our mistakes: we recognise it, we learn from it, we teach from it and this is how we advance. When a self driving car has an accident trust is lost entirely and yet people have accidents every day. We never ask an Uber driver if they ever had a car crash. Humans trust humans and are profoundly suspicious of technology.
We can program certain systems onto computers to serve its professional purpose, but it is much harder to program a believable personality because a personality is a reflection of a unique human emotional experience.
We cannot formulate and simply install onto a machine politeness, empathy and respect for instance.
As a business owner, we focus on customer experience and invest in staff development. More than ever it is essential to stand out from the ordinary and future proof our service.
I believe this can be best achieved if we combine technology with that “human touch”. People only trust and engage at a deeper level of interaction. Companies need to gain trust from one another to do business and they can only feel this once there has been a human connection.
So yes, the presence of AI is inevitable, however I am confident we will not be dominated by it.
If anything, there will be much more demand for that human connection… in the future world of AI speaking to someone real may even become a luxury everyone looks forward to.