Rise Of The Machines – It’s Not Judgment Day Yet!

Are you worried about the rise of the machines?

What I’m talking about is artificial intelligence and how it will be changing everything – not least the way we work. I’m NOT talking in the sense of a dystopia, like the film the Terminator or a time where computers will run amok and all humanity is on the brink of extinction.

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The reality is more practical and less scary!  There will be big benefits to what’s coming with AI machines and there will also be some drawbacks. As always there will be winners and losers, regardless of what area you are right now.

One gentleman called Gerd Leonhard, created a model which actually helps to explain some of this.  He thinks about it in two separate axes:

  1. Are you working in a cognitive or a physical role?
  2. Are you doing a repetitive role or are you doing one that requires imagination and creativity?

Now as you can probably imagine, some of those roles will be things that you’re already seeing machine automation happening in. So, for example, you can go into some shops or some restaurants and it’s self-service.  You just need to push buttons.  Or in the case of some  Amazon Go stores you’ll just walk out with the goods and automatically be charged for them.

Now that’s great when you think about it from a routine job point of view. Things that are fairly manual are easily automatable.  However, they are going to be some jobs that are manual that you can’t automate,  for example something  like being a gardener.  It would be very difficult to automate that, in that not is it not really routine beyond perhaps cutting the grass and the hedges but gardening requires a lot of creativity.

Being a gardener requires a lot of thought and each individual garden is different. So to actually get a computer and a robot to be able to work in that environment is incredibly difficult.  It’s not impossible but would be incredibly difficult and certainly something that
I can’t see happening in the short term.

Now think about the other side of the equation.

Here you are working in a place where you have to use your mind for logical thought. For example for some kind of office work there are tasks that computers can easily take over. For example automating messages to customers.  But there are other areas where a computer can only go so far.

For example, we’re already seeing now that computers can automatically translate things from one language to another and be able to do that on the fly.  However – does that put translation services at risk?  No, not really.  Because here’s the thing.  Artificial intelligence machines won’t do everything because they aren’t human, they don’t have emotions, they do things according to a series of rules.

Now machines can learn rules and develop rules but the machines can’t understand the nuances of emotion (yet) and the decision they make are not the same as people would make and therefore may not be appropriate from a customer service point of view. Not all customer service should be automated.

Other kinds of job roles can be done well by AI. Form filling or checking through information – those types of things are arguably things that computers can be great at.  AI is already changing things like due diligence, automatic form creation, even the issuing of legal documents in some cases that have literally had no human input beyond the client and the computer.

But what the computer can’t do is bring an expert viewpoint, or looking at things beyond the information that’s being given.  AI can’t work out which are really the real value points that you need and which are not. So that’s still an area that most consultants will still continue to bring to the table. Computers don’t have that human connection and that’s really important because they’re not able to read the subtle signs of all the parties involved in a certain type of transaction.  Only a human can do that.

And even though there have been examples of computers creating art, the reality is they’re not really being creative. They can only create that art by working within a series of rules.

So when you’re thinking about artificial intelligence and how it’s going to affect your role in the future, don’t necessarily think that it’s always a bad thing.  Look at the kind of tasks that you do that computers can’t emulate, and make sure you’re choosing a path which means that you’ve always got a future.