I have spent the last two years working on a book titled “Clearing the Digital BLUR”, which is about to hit the stands soon. The fundamental premise of the book is that many lines that we are used to from the industrial and early part of the information age have started blurring away. We now live in a Digital BLUR world characterized by Boundary-less organizations, Limitless digitization, Unbounded innovation and Relentless iteration.
Many organizations are falling by the wayside because leaders and organizations are either failing to either notice the blurring lines or struggling to respond to the after-effects of Digital BLUR. While a large part of the book focuses on the trends revolving around the BLUR and the recommended response from companies to clear the BLUR, I started thinking about what this really mean to us, as individuals. I tried to boil it down to a few realities:
Reality #1: All that can be automated, will be
That most of our work processes can be automated and robotized is now a foregone conclusion. The question that I ponder about a lot these days is, “As AI becomes more human, will we become more robotized or more human?”.
If there’s anything we have learned from history, it is that the tools we invent become our masters over time – Thanks to the rapid advancements in Machine learning and AI, things that we thought were uniquely human are now being done by algorithms and in most cases, with unprecedented efficiency and quality. With poetry writing, music composition, dancing, playing golf, and even driving a car scratched off from the list, we are left with very few things that we can label as uniquely human.
How should we respond to this unprecedented situation?
As I see it, there is only one way: by becoming more human, looking within for inspiration and doing things that are uniquely you. The things that continue to elude technology today are:
- Critical Thinking
- Strategic Orientation
These are only some of the skills that AI and robots will predictably not master for a long time. Why? Because technology is a manifestation of human understanding. How can we program a machine to do something that we aren’t entirely competent at as yet? So, while AI and robotics continue to take on roles and skills that humans have mastered over the centuries, as humans, we must now look to developing and mastering these more niche skill sets.
Reality #2: Machines are learning, we are not
We take breaks, go on holidays, fall sick, or don’t feel up to it some days. Machines don’t go through any of this, except for some planned / unplanned downtime. They keep learning all the time. All-The-Time. We, on the other hand, stagnate and saturate. So how are we supposed to keep up?
At this point, there are still a few things that humans can do: imagine possibilities, be curious and learn with agility and purpose. Imagination, curiosity and learning agility are critically important for us to stay relevant.
Being alive means that we go through various experiences every second of life. What’s important is that we make the most of these experiences – acknowledge them, assimilate them into our existing mental models and continue to deploy these experiences and the learning we derive from them into future scenarios.
We don’t necessarily need to be at work all the time to develop skills required to do our jobs proficiently. Albert Einstein once said that he was a successful scientist because he was a passionate violin player. He goes as far as to say that the theory of relativity occurred to him as a result of his musical perception. Therefore, it is important that we are actively curious every second of our lives.
“The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind, is curiosity.” —Edmund Burke
Reality #3: Blue Collar, White Collar, Metal Collar
We inherited the terms ‘blue collar’ and ‘white collar’ from the industrial era. Now a third type of collar is getting added to the mix: Metal collar.
The Metal collar – the robotic workforce can now take over large parts of blue and white-collar work. Does that mean that jobs will go away? The answer is yes and no. Yes, many jobs that humans previously undertook masterfully are now being taken over by robots. Research suggests, however, that AI will create far more jobs than it is destroying.
What I am supremely confident about is our stellar ability to create more problems with these innovations. Humans have an impeccable track record with this. Looking back, it is not like the industrial era wiped away all our problems. We, in fact, created monstrous problems that are much larger than what we can solve as individuals– sustainability, income inequality, global warming etc.
In the future, successful people will be the ones who take learning in their own hands, build a tribe that cares about a cause and gain deep experiences in domains to be able to solve massive problems, enabled by AI. In fact, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sees that we are in something of a “renaissance” and “golden age” when it came to the subjects of machine learning and artificial intelligence.
Are you ready to get on board? If you’re interested, my book will be sure to help.