Human Acceleration Update: AI and the Future of Work

Everybody is talking about Artificial Intelligence. Some are excited, some are scared, but what is really happening with AI and the Future of Work?

Human Acceleration

Some people are excited about Artificial Intelligence (AI), some people are scared, but what is really happening with AI and the Future of Work?

We’ve talked about AI on this blog before, and although people are worried, the truth is we’re already using automation to process all the data that needs to be dealt with every day.

What does this mean for the future?

There are two different elements in this discussion, which we’ll touch on below:

  1. AI allows us to process complex and seemingly infinite data more efficiently
  2. AI is going to make certain jobs redundant, is this only bad news?

In touching on the first topic, here are some of the ways AI is currently being used in the workplace:

AI and the Future of Work Insight #1: Managing big data is a big deal

There is so much data, so much isn’t even a valid adjective. With the cloud, and all of the massive data centres running 24/7 around the world, we have the ability to create infinite amounts of information. Every word of this article contributes to this. Every text message, everything that you type and put into a digital application is being stored somewhere.

This is scary, but also helpful, because despite the incomparable brilliance of the human brain, which we still don’t fully comprehend, we can’t always remember everything. It’s just not possible. But, with data centre storage, now we can. Or at least we can be assured that any valuable information that we create, or that anyone else has created, is stored on the cloud (and is easily accessible).

(With this comes issues with personal privacy, energy management and a lot of other issues, but we’ll save these for a future post).

AI and the Future of Work Insight #2: AI is helping us process big data

It’s one thing to store all of this data, but how do we make sense of all this information? It’s difficult enough for a single person to get to inbox-zero, how can we expect human beings to be able to process and make sense of all the data they’ve created (whether they’re aware of creating it or not)?

The scope of data, and how to make use of it, is mind boggling, and it’s just not realistic to expect a team of data analysts, no matter how capable, to be able to make sense of it all, at least not quickly, or inexpensively.

And this is where AI and Deep Learning comes in. To give an example, IBM’s AI application “Watson”, has been trained to go through all the available data on worldwide oncology patient cases, to put it all together, and give recommendations based on programmed questions. Watson could do this in a fraction of the time that human beings could. Incredibly, Watson even came up with suggestions that data analysts hadn’t even thought of.

That’s quite something, especially when you think that this is just one example of how AI can be used. Imagine the scope for augmenting decision-making in other fields.

AI and the Future of Work Insight #3: AI is helping us stay up to date

It’s one thing to know that there’s a whole lot of data to be managed and processed, but even if we could deal with everything that has been created, what about the endless stream of new information?

With AI able to help us make sense of existing data, it can also help us stay up to speed with data that is being created. One daily example is Google Alerts. The fact that there is an automated process that trawls the mass of information on the internet and compiles a neat list of what you’re looking for into an email on a regular basis. It’s quite incredible, really.

To touch on the second part of current discourse on AI, here are the insights we’ve gained over the past six months, in working with digital sociologist Lisa Talia Moretti, on putting together a proposal for an educational programme that will better prepare us for the future of work. Something we call #humanacceleration:

AI and the Future of Work Insight #4: AI will replace human jobs, but is this only bad news?

Of course, people have always felt threatened by new and changing technologies, and there are important social, environmental and regulatory concerns that need to be addressed as we move forward.

But hasn’t this always been the case? What happened to chandlers when electricity became more popular? What happened to the horse trading businesses when cars became more affordable? How did those people adapt and adjust?

While we absolutely need to be real about this transition, we think that this change also a presents an opportunity: to hone our uniquely human skills.

Our approach is simple, as humans we need to adapt to a world where the pace of technological change is chaotic and impossible to keep up with. To make sure we stay relevant, we need to focus on these two core skills:

  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking

What other skills do you think are most critical in a technologically-driven future? Share your thoughts in the comments below:

Interested in finding out more about our approach to #humanacceleration? Get in touch with our CEO Claire Burge, who speaks regularly on this topic at international tech conferences.

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