Artificial Intelligence Needs the Human Touch

05/05/2016 14:54

The robots are coming and, if media hype is to be believed, they're going to put us all out of a job.

Predictions about the future impact of technology on our jobs sound bleak, with suggestions artificial intelligence (AI) and automation could drive global unemployment as high as 50% over the next 30 years. The UK is expected to reach this position even sooner. But those forecasting a catastrophic conflict where human intelligence is pitted against the ever-expanding might of the machines are forgetting that technology - no matter how intelligent it becomes - is ultimately designed and operated by humans.

Robots simply aren't able to go it alone. Microsoft's disastrous AI chat robot was supposed to become smarter through conversation, but began tweeting racist and sexist comments within a few hours without human management.

Yes, AI will soon become a huge part of many job roles, but people will always be required to pull the levers and to manage those doing so. The key is not to resist technological development, but rather to be equipped with the digital skills needed to excel alongside it.

So, what can you do to succeed in a world that increasingly depends on machines to perform tasks previously undertaken by humans?

The individual approach
Whether a recent graduate or a seasoned employee, you must continually develop your technological skillset in your specific market area to avoid being left behind. Automation will impact different jobs in different ways so keep your finger on the pulse by researching trends and predictions in your sector, and be open to change. Consider how your role might evolve through automation - do you have the necessary skills to develop alongside the technology? Once you have identified gaps in your skillset, look into training opportunities either privately or through your employer.

The academic approach
Many of today's degrees and qualifications are failing to provide students with the technical skills that modern businesses desperately require. For example, a significant number of courses in marketing only include a short module on digital media, yet this now accounts for a large part of most job roles in the sector. Some professors are forward-focused and embracing technological developments (they are the ones doing the most to prepare their students for the job market) but many are still very traditional. A shift in mindset needs to occur across the academic world if future generations are to excel alongside machines.

The organisational approach
It's not all down to you - businesses need to take responsibility for ensuring employees have the technological skills they need, and this requires a top down approach to continual education. The C-suite has often worked in its sector for 10-20 years and hasn't necessarily been directly involved in the latest technological evolution, resulting in an organisational disconnect. When these leaders embrace technology and digital skills, and realise education never stops, employees and organisations as a whole will benefit.

Progressive leaders are already taking the necessary steps to ensure employees are provided with essential digital knowledge. My organisation - a global technology company - created a downloadable app for the marketing industry that helps employees grow professionally by advancing their skills and knowledge through interactive exercises. With increased demand for technological training from individuals, academic institutions, and organisations, this type of education technology (Edtech) will increasingly provide the necessary solutions.

Rather than becoming an epic battle of man against machine, the future of technological innovation can be a beneficial one - so long as you're equipped with the skills to use technology to its maximum potential, while still adding that all important human touch.