How to Stop Superhuman AI Before It Stops Us...That is a real news article in the New York Times! It makes the future of work sound really scary right?
A new study by Gartner indicates that out of the top 3 challenges to AI adoption the second highest was a ‘fear of the unknown’. Specifically, an understanding of AI benefits and uses.(1)
Well, we are here to tell you that while there is fear about AI, there is also great hope and opportunity. On any given day, news headlines, LinkedIn posts and industry journals are highlighting all manner of doom and gloom - from robots “taking our jobs” and “running the world as we know it” to a panic that our workplaces will fall over from an epic skills shortage.
So where do we start digging to get to the bottom of what’s really here and in front of us?
We don’t think its about a fear of change. History shows us that we are capable of changing because we’ve already survived 3 industrial revolutions.
Does the fear come from the size and ambiguity of the change? Perhaps.
In his book, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”, Klaus Schwab (2016)(2), highlights that this revolution is not about controlling the way we work and live, it is about transforming it and taking it to a whole new level, which is much a more significant change than previous. Schwab writes, “of the many diverse and fascinating challenges we face today, the most intense and important is how to understand and shape the new technology revolution, which entails nothing less than a transformation of humankind. We are at the beginning of a revolution that is fundamentally changing the way we live, work and relate to one another. In its scale, scope and complexity what I consider to be the fourth industrial revolution is unlike anything humankind has experienced before.” That sounds quite scary.
Yet, we feel it’s an exciting time to be alive and in the workforce. In every direction we look, globally and in every industry, we are seeing profound shifts driven by new technologies, new business models and unprecedented access to information and ‘data’. And there are enormous opportunities for people to play a part by unlocking the many superpowers we each have already as humans.
Don’t get us wrong. We are not naïve. There are important parts of the future-of-work that need to be developed urgently because they pose considerable risk to society. Particularly, the development of ethical standards around AI and consideration of how automating repetitive work will have a larger impact on particular members of society - especially those who are currently struggling and come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Gartner predict that by 2026, 40% of financial services jobs will be replaced by AI and automation, with 90% of these impacting women and minority groups.
What we see most often though in the current business context, are unfounded fears about AI. We see myths and hype about potential threats that either don’t exist, or don’t exist yet (and could be averted with proper standards and regulations).
So in the spirit of creating a sense of hope to help us manage the feelings of fear, lets looks into busting some of the myths about the impact of AI.
Robots will take over our jobs.
Possibly in some jobs.
There are some jobs, surgery is a great example, where robotic systems are taking over some of the work people used to do. Notice we said “some of the work”? Even in these jobs, there is still a need for human activity. In fact, there are now many examples of how humans are working alongside machines in order for the best outcomes and the return on investment to be realised. The machines are designed to complete the repetitive and mundane tasks with speed, accuracy and scalability. The humans bring different and complementary strengths such as creativity, innovation, critical thinking, judging, persuasion and other social aspects that create a humanised customer experience. If used effectively, this partnership of human-machine can create a competitive advantage for an organisation.
Furthermore, while some jobs will no longer be required in the future, Gartner (3) predicts that AI will become a net-positive job motivator, eliminating 1.8 million jobs while creating 2.3 million jobs by 2020. This net-positive trends continues through to 2025. So even though some work will no longer be needed, more opportunities will be created than taken away.
The skills needed for the future, are not skills I have been developing (or can develop)
It’s true that the skills needed for the future workplace are different to those we have been developing over the past few decades. McKinsey and Company have forecast a 14% decrease in the need for physical and manual skills, and a 15% decrease in the need data entry and processing, basic literacy, numeracy and communication. They predict that by 2030 we will see a 55% increase in the need for Technological skills - specifically Advanced IT skills, programming and basic digital skills. As these will be needed to build and run the AI and robotics.
Though, we don’t all need to become Technology experts. The research indicates that many skills we currently have that don’t require an in-depth knowledge of technology, are going to be in great demand, at a more enhanced level (creativity, empathy, entrepreneurship, thinking-outside-the-box). McKinsey and Company predict that:
Social and emotional as required skills will increase by 24% (they define these as entrepreneurship and initiative taking, leadership and managing others).
Higher Cognitive skills (creativity, complex information processing and interpretation) will increase by 8%.
Likewise, Gartner are also predicting an increase in demand for social-creative skills and digital dexterity skills.
The question now is – will you step up as a leader and help guide the future of work? Or will you give in to the myths and hype and avoid any change connected to AI? Will you unlock your superpower for change so that you can lead others effectively through the disruption to gain the full benefits of the opportunities we have in front of us?
What we would like, is for leaders everywhere to think about the impacts of technology on their industry, their organisation and their community and to understand how their teams are supported through the disruption. The World Economic Forum Insight report on The Future of Jobs (5) published in 2018 predicts that by 2022, no less than 54% of all employees will require significant re-skilling and upskilling.
Just as the wave of our children are speaking out for action on climate change and the groundswell of energy and focus on solutions, now is also a time for us to think creatively about how we tackle the impacts to the skills required in our workforce. There’s issues don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Imagine if we freed-up time and capacity of our people (by implementing AI) and then let them spend that time solving bigger and far more complex challenges in our community such as how to really tackle:
· the rise of loneliness and mental unhealth
· how to care respectfully for an aging population
· directing existing talent in new industries for action on climate change.
Look in the mirror, then look around your team, your organisation and your industry.
How are you preparing yourself and those around you for the challenges and most importantly the opportunities? How are you thinking about extending the capabilities of your people so that they are resilient and adaptive and are building on their skills for the future?
While there is a lot of fear about the impact of AI on our world, there is also a role for us to keep providing hope, opportunity and supporting each other to unlock our superpowers.
The intention of this big-hearted post is to inspire you to think bigger, be curious and create meaningful work for yourself and the people you lead.
Our future as humans is depending on it.
At Adaptive Change Mindset, we help you take the guess work out of supporting your team through change. We specialise in working with you and your organisation to extend the capabilities of your people and gain the near term and long term ROI of AI adoption.
1. Gartner (16th October 2019) “The Future of Data Science, Machine Learning and AI” Webinar.
2. Klaus Schwab (2016) “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”. Portfoliio.
3. Gartner (2019) “Labour Market Insights Quarterly”.
4. McKinsey & Company (2018) “ Skill Shift Automation and the Future of the Workforce”.
5. World Economic Forum (WEF) (2018) “The Future of Jobs Report”.