Over the last two years, much has been said about the new industrial revolution that is ongoing. While most can agree that the rate of digital transformation is incredible, we see very divided sentiments about the changes artificial intelligence (AI) bring to modern businesses. But no matter the outlook, it is clear that a massive change is already happening, and the dynamics of our relationship with machines will be transformed.
Commonly, there are two extreme views to the changes that are happening – pessimistic with a quasi- certainty that we will all end up unemployed; or optimistic, that AI will solve most of our socio-environmental problems. The truth is likely to be somewhere in between.
Human-machine partnerships have existed since the machine age. The difference is that the current pace of technological innovation has increased human reliance on technology more than ever. Fortunately, our ability to adapt to new technology has also been evolving. We have gotten better at leveraging machines and new technology to help us in our day-to-day tasks. With all things in perspective, what’s next for the human-machine partnership? And how will it affect our work lives, careers, and jobs?
RECOGNISING THE VALUE OF DIGITAL DISRUPTORS
Looking into the future, workplace success is likely to be dependent on our ability to build systems which are well integrated with mega digital ecosystems. As it stands now, major cloud service platforms like Amazon Web Services, Azure and Google Cloud are already disrupting businesses in ways that were unimaginable a few years ago. In the same vein, they are also accelerating hybrid human-machine experiences at an unprecedented rate.
Notwithstanding quantum leaps in data centre server computing power and data management capabilities as well as the mass proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT), rapid maturing on the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technological fronts also offer powerful and interactive human- machine collaboration.
Resultantly, we are increasingly seeing human-machine interactions adding value to nearly all professions. Cases in point, with the help of AI, doctors are making faster patient diagnoses and engineers can now design smarter and more innovative products within a shorter time; similarly, advances in AR and VR capabilities have empowered city and building architects to experience their designs virtually and reshape them even before the projects are built.
The same technological development that we are apprehensive about is making our work lives easier and more productive.
LEVERAGING MACHINES TO COMPLEMENT OUR STRENGTH
Further, if you look at the history of writing and publishing, technology has revolutionised the way we pen down our thoughts and disseminate them – from manual copying and hand-drawn illustrations to the introduction of the printing press and the advent of typewriters, then personal computers and smartphones. Humans have learnt to adopt technology for our own benefit.
Today, AI is the equivalent of the printing press, typewriter, personal computer and smartphone, all rolled into one. It allows us to do more complex tasks, at scale, and in a fast and cost-effective way. Notably, the purposes of the tasks remain the same; and human intervention – albeit of a different nature – is still required in the process.
Therefore, rather than thinking of machines as our competitors, we should actively embrace technology to enhance our capabilities. We are fundamentally different from machines. While machines can deliver speed and scale greater than ours, our edge lies in our natural abilities to solve complex problems and being creative and empathetic. Hence, as long as we stay true to our strengths and work towards becoming better learners and quicker thinkers, the human-machine partnership may well be a recipe for building a better world.
UNDERSTANDING THAT CHANGE IS THE NEW CONSTANT
Studies show that the current pace of change is so fast that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not been created yet. As a matter of fact, most companies today would be hard-pressed to predict whether they will still exist in the next three to five years. Likewise, gone are the days where people spent their entire work life in the same company.
The implication of these changes is huge. It means that our future jobs are likely to be less function based and more competency driven where specific tasks are assigned according to skill sets and capabilities. Depending on the skills we possess, our careers will be correspondingly shaped. Thus, skills learning not only has to start from the early days of our education, but also continue lifelong. Because the ability to reskill by continuously learning – how to work with machines effectively – will be key to staying on track in career development.
Human-machine partnership is here to stay. Instead of fearing the change it brings and rejecting its adoption, why not use humankind’s best skill – adaptability – to embrace and move forward with it together.