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The future of work in an autonomous world

Digital transformation is happening, despite resistance and a lack of planning from governments. We can’t stop the fourth industrial revolution – AI, automation and machine learning are already augmenting our lives – but we can make a conscious decision to embrace it and unleash our creativity as a result.

Half of work today will be automated in the near future, yet 85% think it won’t happen to their roles, Henrik Scharfe announced boldly at last week’s HR Tech World show. This attitude is surprising given the uptake of home automation devices, the use of Netflix’s recommendations, suggested products… the list goes on. We like the idea of technology improving our leisure time and automating repetitive tasks, but god forbid it replaces our jobs.

Creativity at a premium

It’s a paradox, but the technology designed to make us more efficient has diminished our artistry and intuition. In turn, that’s made us more vulnerable to losing our value in the workplace.

What can’t be replaced by machines is human imagination. Could a machine come up with big advertising campaigns that evoke emotions? No, but Don Draper can. And that’s with a few Old Fashioneds under his belt. We’re not all brooding ad men, yet we have the humanity to conjure passion, pride and nostalgia. It’s what makes us individuals. It’s what makes us human.

If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation

Arianna Huffington suggests that our ability to build resilience for the workplace of the future depends on how well we can take control of our lives, and our relationships with technology – rather than burying our heads in the sand.

HR Tech World

The first stage is to admit to ourselves that we’re going to be replaced if we can’t adapt our thinking. Machines can empower us into creative mastery; let them crunch the data and make recommendations that we can turn into visions.

Secondly – and as Bill Boorman advises – we can’t rely on simply automating bad processes, or productivity is going to remain stagnant. We need to look at new approaches to tasks, rather than replicating what’s always been. Likewise, we risk creating working environments that lack diversity if we rely on old or inaccurate datasets.

Invasion on humanity

Bill Gates, Peter Norvig, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking – among other experts – penned an open letter about the potential pitfalls of artificial intelligence, calling for more research on how to prevent creating something which cannot be controlled.

Short-term concerns include autonomous vehicles deciding between a small risk of a major accident and a large probability of a small accident. Or what about how best to manage surveillance datasets whilst maintaining privacy? Longer-term, the experts examined the rise of superintelligences that don’t act in accordance with human wishes, threatening the fabric of humanity.

Spurred on by these dystopian theories, we’re having conversations about what it is to be human and how we interact with technology now, and in the future. Inspired by these discussions, Arianna Huffington created a brand – Thrive Global – to help us harness our creativity, make connections with other humans, and to disconnect.

Detaching from technology may seem absurd when we need to be using it to further ourselves. But it’s essential because we need time alone with our imagination so we can have those Don Draper moments. Away from technology, we can reflect and use our creativity – the things we’re losing due to our device addiction. That way, we can augment our talent with technology to drive positive changes in the workplace, and at home.

The future is here

Don’t just go along with the ride – drive the transformation. It’s only by getting involved that we can make positive changes to the world. Don’t leave the decisions in the hands of the few, it’s time for all of us to step up in this exciting age. And that starts by admitting that our jobs won’t look the same in a few years.

Technology can help us to become better humans. Let’s use our creativity and intuition to build better relationships and come up with big ideas. The machines will take care of the rest.

Most importantly, we can’t become device slaves. We’ve all seen the funny videos of people falling into calamitous situations whilst looking at their phones, but this phone reliance is real. We are starved of reflection time whilst at the same time, we’re being bombarded with data, algorithms and automation.

Huffington is right – the next big thing is augmented humanity – machines coupled with human wisdom.

 

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