No one is better at being human than humans. But robots beg to differ… ask Harish Natarajan, the world record holder for debate competition victories. In February this year, Harish faced the most unique and unpredictable opponent he had ever encountered – Miss Debater, IBM's six-year-old artificial intelligence (AI) system. While Harish may have had more debating experience than the bot, truth be told, the odds have not been in favor of humans lately. The battle between humans and machines has witnessed world champs and record breakers fall short to AI countless times.
Yet, in today's world where everyone is claiming that robots are out to take our jobs, humans needed a win – and win, Harish did. Not this time, machines!
In between the irony of our desire for innovation and rising distrust against technology: AI to many, has become our competition, an enemy. But is it really?
Contrary to a 4th industrial reality where humans need not apply, AI could just be the catalyst to unlock deeper, more sublime expressions of our humanity over time, just as Miss Debater did.
Stop comparing robots and humans!
Indeed, some professions have more reason to worry than others; those with highly repeatable work such as lawyers, accountants and professional drivers are at a greater risk than robotics specialists. Some AI experts like Kai-Fu Lee would say the odds are stacked against 40 per cent of all existing jobs over the next 15-25 years, but this is dependent on region and profession.
An OECD study found that in some regions it could be as little as 4 per cent while in others it is as high as 40 per cent and can vary wildly within a country. In fact, there are so many studies examining what robots might do to humans that the estimates can range from anywhere to 4 per cent to 70 per cent.
While this may be true, other experts argue that: Comparing AI with human intelligence is not a 'fair matchup', with both having different skillsets and functions. Says Scott Robinson, SharePoint and business intelligence expert: "Computers were invented to have them do well what human brains do poorly. But there's more to business processes than task execution: could AI get the inspiration to merge a smartphone and the iPod into a handheld digital apps platform?"
"AI is great at replicating intelligent behavior, but intelligent thought is another matter. We don't fully understand how intelligent human thoughts develop, so we're not going to build machines that can have them anytime soon," he adds. "An office worker knows how other human beings think and behave, so she can anticipate delays or opportunities. There are implicit tasks in all areas of business that are undocumented but natural and deeply ingrained. AI can't get anywhere near those implicit tasks and passive knowledge."
Consequently, it would be unfair to compare what is natural and programmed.
The need to build trust
How can we prepare employees to adopt a positive outlook on the future and support AI in reinventing our roles within the workforce? In spite of the significant benefits to implementing and scaling a digital workforce, there's an innate distrust around the success and sustainability of AI-human symbioses.
However, with so much evidence for the alternative, there is a more positive message around the AI revolution. Competition, after all, is not necessarily a bad thing and has been proven to be healthy and effective in unleashing the maximum potential of employees in the past. Shouldn't we trust the same will occur when AI joins the workforce?
We need to address a mindset of learning, where challenge constantly gives way to opportunity and problems ignite our best solutions. AI is unveiling a range of services that were previously inaccessible to our clients. Our job as organisational leaders is to breed environments of learning, where we can develop and empower our people to master new digital technologies and creative skills to bridge that gap between human and machine. We as humans also need a mindset of lifelong learning.
Despite lacking emotional intelligence AI is not excused from following humanity's ethics and principles. Amid all research and experiments on unlocking the power of big data, science is not blind. Humanity is still placed at the centre. An entire field called 'robo-ethics' is on the rise to tackle the moral and ethical issues created by the evolution of AI.
Biochemist and science fiction author Isaac Asimov proposed three laws of robotics, designed to protect the safety of humans. And, even though these are up for debate and may still not suffice, achieving a truly 'ethical AI' is undeniably a goal and requirement we must strive for.
The laws are:
- A robot cannot harm a human or allow a human to come to harm by inaction
- A robot must obey any orders a human gives them unless the order violates the first law
- A robot may defend itself if they can do so without violating the first or second law
"AI's relative objectivity can help counteract human subjectivity and has, so far, proven to be revolutionary to domains such as science, health, technology and finance. Consequently, with great power comes great responsibility, and there are significant risks to such powerful advances in computation and technology which must be mitigated before public consumption. To ensure that AI does no harm, we must proceed with caution," according to Charlotte Murray, consultant and Engagement Lead at HR analytics start-up Qlearsite.
More human than ever
With so much computational power at our disposal, the opportunity stands as never before to transform this power into effective change by stretching our creative human capacities to new limits. Although technical skills will remain important, the emphasis will be on our abilities to make sense of all this data and to marshal the digital knowledge for fresh value and insights.
It will require a 'doubling down' in communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and cognitive flexibility. These attributes will augment our current jobs as designers and engineers, but they'll also pave the way to brand new jobs across the business landscape.
Just imagine… a human-machine teaming manager could help oversee the human-robot working partnership, an ethical learning manager could ensure AI is trained in ethical practice; a chief trust officer would ensure financial and regulatory credibility within a world of constant change and disruption.
In an increasingly hybrid reality shared by human and machine, emotional intelligence will become the cornerstone skill to navigate people through the change. Bearing this in mind, perhaps, it is time to take down the score board and stop counting how many times we have won against machines and instead count how many times we have won with them.
We will only lose if we give in to fear and don't try. Remember: A win for AI is also a win for humans. Let the new scoreboard stand: Humans and AI: 1; Fear: 0.