Given the promise of AI technology, it’s possible our world could one day mimic the storyline from Blade Runner. Last year, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla, stated that “robots will be able to do everything better than us,” implying even CEOs like himself may be in danger of job loss.
However, robot laws and regulations can address oversight and help both entrepreneurs and business associates reach their full potential. In fact, the rise of AI and bots could offer opportunities to adapt and improve human skills in various industries.
Estimates for the automation of most jobs vary, but the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report suggests that automation will replace 7.1 million jobs and create 2 million new jobs by 2020. As we stand on the cusp of these tech disruptions, many people are asking if their professional, human skills are useless. The question begs to be computed: In a world of machine learning, will AI help manufacture a smarter, more skilled workforce?
The skills assessment phase
Smart machines can store, process, and remember information faster than any human ever could. IBM’s Watson can now strategize steps ahead in chess or research medical conditions to solve common problems. In the business world, automated machines are researching, organizing, and completing tasks within seconds. The AI of today helps us communicate and streamline operations more efficiently than ever before. Robots are able to solve quantitative, logically complex problems, but their speed does not necessarily equate to intelligence.
Since we’re now using deep learning robots and machines to complete repetitive tasks, we are beginning to see a shift in the way we learn and assess our own skills in the office. While businesses across the board will reshape their practices due to faster, more personable operations via robots and automation, these innovations will also force entrepreneurs and workers to reshape and adjust their talents.
The smart shift
As automated, skilled machines complete repetitive tasks, AI can reshape our skills. More free time from reallocating tedious tasks will allow us to polish our talents in areas that matter, like relationship-building with business associates and customers.
According to a 2016 McKinsey Quarterly article, the jobs that are least threatened by AI are those considered “knowledge work.” Activities like management, developing and training new talent, decision making, planning, or creative work are at lower risk for automation.
According to the PwC, 39 percent of CEOs are preparing for automation’s impact in their industries. Entrepreneurs and workers will have to keep up with their industry, and that means shifting their skills. Far from rendering human intelligence obsolete, AI advancements should make human emotions and cognitive skills more valuable.
As software companies and research institutions conceive more cognitive devices, humans may become smarter as they utilize faster approaches to learning and building skills. From a more scientific standpoint, psychologists have identified that as the volume of data and information balloons together with more sophisticated automated technologies, our brains need to work faster to keep up with more information, making us more intelligent. This theory is called the Flynn effect, and, along with better nutrition and public health, it explains why human intelligence increases with each new generation.
The Harvard Business Review points out that our definition of what it means to be “smart” will change as robots automate more jobs in the future. Instead, our capabilities for open-minded communication, self-awareness, and adaptability to new data will help us become more productive and successful workers. Emotional intelligence will be imperative in the differentiation between man and robot, helping companies excel as they connect with leaders, coworkers, and customers alike.
Merging of the minds
If it’s true that AI will become a major workplace player, as Musk and most experts predict, humans will want to harness the power of AI in a beneficial way. But how? As it turns out, there’s potential for merging the human and AI minds.
One way this could happen is if man and machine were to merge biological and digital intelligence in strategic ways. Computers can communicate at trillions of bits per second, compared to the 10 bits per second at which humans process information. To speed up human performance, communication, and problem-solving, Musk believes there is a need to merge with machines. This theory is already in practice: In March 2017, a company called Neuralink announced the development of high-bandwidth brain-machine interfaces.
The end product of this process would offer a new layer that would help humans access information more quickly and tap into artificially intelligent systems. As a result, people would become more educated and efficient in intelligent tasks, benefiting entrepreneurs, various workforce cohorts, and ultimately the whole world.
If you can’t beat AI, join it
The question isn’t whether computers will make us smarter, but in what ways we will become smarter and how machines will motivate us to improve. Of course, political, educational, and economic institutions will have to help reframe business opportunities for workers in the future. The business world will transform and combine both the best of humans and the best of AI.
But just because the future of the workplace is transforming quickly doesn’t mean we’re facing an ultimatum between innovation and unemployment. In the future, the best business mergers will be those made between man and machine.
Jake Croman is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and college student who currently attends the University of Michigan.