While the assembly line increased production and lowered costs, it also demanded laborers work more hours and fundamentally changed the nature of the work they did. Computerization and automation sent productivity soaring but rendered many back-office jobs obsolete. Now, AI and cognitive computing automate and streamline once-prohibitively-complex, time-consuming big data analysis, providing access to actionable intelligence in minutes or seconds instead of days or weeks. But, like a factory worker in 1913 or a bookkeeper in 1977, we, in 2018, are caught in an unstoppable wave of business transformation, and we’re asking, “Where do I fit in?”
The answer is vital, and the deadline for finding it is fast approaching. According to studies conducted at Oxford and MIT 50% of jobs – across economic sectors - will be obsolete in the next 10 years, due to AI. It’s estimated that AI will create 2.3 million jobs in 2020 while eliminating 18 million.
John Henry or Luke Skywalker?
We have two choices. We can adopt John Henry’s adversarial attitude toward transformation – in his case a steam drill, in our case AI - and resist it to the death (or unemployment), or we can take a lesson from Luke Skywalker’s eventual taming of ‘The Force’; he learned how to work with it, adapt himself to it and channel it to his advantage.
Face it, AI is smarter and faster than we are. In a cold analytic, computational sense a human can never hope to match a machine’s ability to collect and assimilate data, as demonstrated most visibly in 1996, when a supercomputer, IBM Deep Blue, beat world champion Gary Kasparov in a chess match. In a business context, we humans don’t stand a chance - AI is akin to competing against 800 Harvard MBAs!
Emotional Intelligence & Cognitive Collaboration
Interestingly, Kasparov, apparently taking a lesson from this loss to Deep Blue when speaking at the Train AI conference in San Francisco this past May, advocated for the Luke Skywalker approach, arguing that humans must find a way to merge with AI, rather than try to beat it. ‘Augmented intelligence’, he calls it.
I prefer the term ‘cognitive collaboration’.
Where AI’s strengths end, human opportunities begin. AI is like money, not intrinsically good or bad. A computer is the ultimate logical, dispassionate entity, every decision it reaches is the product of algorithms, rendered in black and white, no gray exists. Only when AI’s cold calculations are augmented with ‘emotional intelligence’(EI) – uniquely human qualities, like self-awareness, motivation, creativity, and empathy - do entirely new (and likely better) alternatives emerge. It’s worth noting a recent twist on the ‘Deep Blue’/Kasparov chess experiment: a human and computer, working together, defeated a computer alone.
To put the concept of EI in real-world CRE terms, location strategy is one of the most significant matters organizational leaders may face. The decision of whether or where to relocate a headquarters or consolidate multiple facilities into one, for instance, directly impacts lives. AI will approach the question mathematically, generating recommendations based on objective, quantifiable metrics, like cost, square footage, lease terms, proximity to airports, and more. Conversely, EI injects human capabilities – intuition, empathy, gut-feel - to the equation. A broker involved early in the decision-making process can assess the question and influence the decision in subjective terms, such as the impact on corporate culture and the employee experience.
The optimal decision will emerge from a cognitive collaboration, drawing from both worlds - AI and EI. The lesson for all of us – the key to ensuring job security in this third wave - is to identify those points of confluence, where the qualities that make us human also make us indispensable.
Regional Workplace Manager, Global Strategy
Co-author: Bruce Simoneaux, President & Founder, Simoneaux Consulting LLC
Want to learn more about AI and EI?
Ms. Donoghue is presenting with representatives from Dropbox and Simoneaux Consulting LLC in a session titled Man vs. Machine: Emotional Intelligence as Job Security in the Face of AI at the upcoming CoreNet Global Summit in Boston MA on October 15th. Learn more about the CoreNet Global Summit.