Robots can restore our humanity

A Center for the Edge perspective

As machines take over automated work, there’s a unique opportunity to redefine work around things that are uniquely human: Imagination, creativity, curiosity, and emotional and social intelligence.

Transformation and redefining work

Robots and Artificial Inteligence (AI) can be powerful catalysts to redefine work in ways that will restore our humanity. Today's work is tightly specified, highly standardized & tightly integrated–something that algorithms can do much better than humans. As machines take over this work, we may have an opportunity to redefine work around things that are uniquely human: Imagination, creativity, curiosity, and emotional and social intelligence. There will be no shortage of this kind of work given our ever expanding desire for products and services that can help us achieve more of our potential. But the transition may be painful as our institutions will need to go through a profound transformation to make this possible.

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Robots can restore our humanity

Red alert! Robots are getting more versatile and artificial intelligence (AI) is getting exponentially smarter! Our jobs are in jeopardy and no one is safe! We’ve all seen the headlines. Anxiety and fear are steadily mounting that we are on the edge of a profound transition (some might even call it a Big Shift) that will put us out of work and on the streets.

This time there’s a difference. Previous technology breakthroughs–think of the steam engine, the railroad or the telephone–all had a dramatic impact on certain jobs, but not all jobs. What’s different about this new wave of technology is its potential ability to replace virtually every job known to humanity.

Robots are targeting a growing array of manual jobs while artificial intelligence embedded in ever more powerful computers is going after the desk-bound knowledge worker. Even the most highly educated and trained workers–doctors, for example–aren’t exempt. Artificial intelligence is becoming more accurate in diagnosing diseases while precision robots are beginning to make inroads into surgery rooms. Even some of those headlines about the robots coming are written by AI programs.

So, what should we do about this?

Read more from John Hagel.

The role of the trusted advisor

Robots and AI may be the catalyst we need to finally jettison the increasingly outdated industrial model of scalable efficiency. In its place, we’ll evolve fundamentally new forms of work that tap into more our distinctively human capabilities and potential, one of those being the role of the trusted advisor.

With the advent of Big Data, sophisticated analytics, social software, the Internet of Things, and cloud computing, just to name a few of the enabling technologies, the “trusted advisor” business model now has the potential to become a mass market event. It’s someone who, rather than sitting on the other side trying to push more and more products and services to me, crosses the table to sit next to me and gets to know me so well that he/she can proactively recommend things to me that I had not even asked about, but that turn out to be extremely relevant to my context, needs and aspirations.

The unmet need for trusted talent advisor
There’s a very powerful new business opportunity emerging. So far, it hasn’t been effectively addressed. It represents a significant white space in terms of value creation and value capture at global scale. But, given the powerful economies of scope that will drive this kind of business, there’s an urgency in pursuing it if you find it interesting. This is not the kind of business that will welcome fast followers.

Read more here.

It takes more than a machine to know you: Assistance in an instrumented world
There’s a significant gap between today’s smart virtual assistants and the futuristic robot-butlers of fiction—the ones that anticipate our every need. Today, the closest human analogs are the personal wealth manager, stylist, and concierge medical specialist—individuals whose success is measured by their ability to proactively address the customer’s needs by pulling from a variety of sources. Getting to know a customer well enough to be very valuable is time-consuming for humans, and as a result these services tend to be available mostly to the wealthy. Yet, for the foreseeable future, it will still take a human touch to understand the emotional context of aspirations and how individuals assess value—not to mention to perform creative problem-solving.

Read more in John Hagel’s Techonomy byline.

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