Back to insights

What will really happen when machines outperform humans?

By Marcus Lambert

Most people outside of the tech industry could be forgiven for thinking that artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robots are on a mission to decimate the human workforce within the next generation. The most prominent concern is that automation will remove more jobs than it creates. But, are these fears justified?

Last year, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla, once said that ‘robots will be able to do everything better than us,’ suggesting that even he is replaceable by technology. Maybe this would also explain why he has been seen running around with flamethrowers on Instagram and Twitter over the last few days.

All too often, we focus solely on the technology and how it will transform business. But ultimately it will always be humans at the heart of any successes, so maybe we should invest a little more time in ensuring that everyone is on board and along for the ride. It is true that the range of tasks machines can outperform its human masters at is expanding. But, is this such a bad thing?

Over time, many businesses have fallen into bad habits, and institutionalised behaviour where inefficiencies carry on regardless because ‘we have always done it this way.’ There is an argument that we have lost our way and become robots ourselves, repeating mundane tasks and processes rather than trying to improve them.

The most common questions around AI and emerging technologies are often variants along the same theme, such as what happens when machines are better than people at everything? The fact that we even have to ask this question suggests we have already stopped thinking for ourselves and developed robotic-like qualities of our own.

Humans are emotionally intelligent social creatures who effortlessly collaborate, inspire, and influence each other. We have skills such as creativity and empathy that enable us to build trust, negotiate, and communicate through the art of storytelling.

Whether its visualising, conceptualising or merely using our unique personal experience and expertise to make a judgment call, it’s clear that machines cannot replace us. Those who remain open-minded with enough self-awareness and adaptability to new ways of working will continue to enjoy success in a new digital era

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to modern business. The inconvenient truth for both AI-controlled machines and humans is that we desperately need each other to progress and deliver tangible results. The much-talked-about digital transformation of the business world is actually about combining the best of human skills and the best of AI technology.

Rather than fearing our differences, we should learn to celebrate them to create meaningful change together. Sure, machines can process information faster than any human ever could, but they can also remove those repetitive, mundane, and robotic tasks, so we can get back to doing what we do best.

A human-centric approach to management, developing talent, planning, or even good old-fashioned listening cannot be automated. Change has always been the only constant in life, and the workplace should be no different. The rise of virtual teams means that your work colleague could be 10,000 miles away in a different time zone, but once again, this could make your business more productive in an online world that never sleeps.

Almost every news story seems to present a black-and-white opinion or ultimatum between two scary options. Fortunately, life is not like that, and there won’t be a choice between tech-fueled progress and mass unemployment.

Gartner has predicted that 20% of brands will abandon their mobile apps, 100 million consumers will be shopping in augmented reality, and virtual agents will participate in the majority of commercial interactions by 2020. These trends are led by our consumer behaviour. As we look to businesses to lead the way with technological solutions, we need to accept that we can no longer do this on our own.

If you take a step back from the fear that is often presented in newspaper headlines that report worst-case scenarios as fact, it quickly becomes apparent at how man and machine need each other. It’s not just about automation and mass processing of data, but how this information is presented and utilised using emotional intelligence.

As humans, we need to get over ourselves and stop thinking like robots. How we adapt, thrive, and survive in a digital age with a new set of skills and resources at our disposal will depend entirely on our mindset and attitude rather than anything else.

To find out how digital transformation could enhance your business or kick off a project with us, get in touch today.

We are the digital experience company for business brands.

In today’s connected world, experience is brand.

So we help you create better experiences for your customers, employees, partners and stakeholders. Ones that work in empathy with them to achieve their goals, engage and delight them, and build brand loyalty.