Leadership Collaborator Quest Leadership
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AI – It’s a question of perspective

27th Oct 2016
Leadership Collaborator Quest Leadership
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Watch out, watch out, the robots are coming! They’re going to take our jobs, take over our homes, and then eliminate us as being an unnecessary disorder in an ordered world.

Yes you may have read the book or seen the film (or at least a variant on it) but should we really be worried about fantasy or should we look at the facts? Are robots really going to take over the world, are Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics going to save us, or is there another reality again; one in which we can use artificial intelligence to the long-term benefit of business and society?

In 1943 the president of IBM predicted that there would only be a market in the world for five computers. Move forward a couple of decades and various ‘experts’ predicted that whilst there might be a market for one computer in every large city, the certainly wouldn’t be any call for computers to be widespread in homes or businesses. Move on again and the talk was about the danger of computers replacing people and taking their jobs. But computers are in our homes and the only jobs which they have so far taken are those which are boring and repetitive.

More importantly, numerous reports have shown that every low skilled job which has been lost to technology has more than been replaced by other jobs at a higher skill and higher pay level. If those reports are true then rather than being worried by artificial intelligence taking our jobs, we should embrace the rise of AI as a pathway to a more highly skilled and more interesting future. In other words, it’s a question of perspective.

A challenge, an opportunity

Looking purely at jobs being automated and jobs being lost brings negativity, looking at the vast potential which this opens up is another matter altogether. But it has to be said that the rise in artificial intelligence does bring challenges for leaders. The business landscape is going to change, but then show me a time when the business landscape didn’t.

With every development the winners have been the leaders who were able to identify opportunities, to exploit developments and to build positivity into a change strategy. So rather than being afraid, let’s look at the way in which artificial intelligence can enhance the business offering.

Perhaps one place to start would be by considering the AI/people mix in terms of the left brain, right brain theory. The theory runs that the left brain controls areas such as logical thinking and mathematics, whilst the right brain governs areas such as intuition and creativity. It’s purest form this would mean that AI is probably best suited to left brain activities, leaving people to carry out the more creative tasks.

Artificial intelligence could be used to collect statistics but it requires people to interpret the statistics and to use them to develop a strategy

Interestingly, the original idea of the left brain and right brain split has in more recent times been developed with research showing the way in which both sides of the brain collaborate in order to deliver a conclusion. This collaboration, this sharing of tasks also works well in the business world. For example, computers and artificial intelligence could be used to collect statistics (the big data model which is so in vogue currently) but it requires people to interpret the statistics and to use them to develop a strategy which will deliver innovative solutions for customers.

This is only one example but it does show how we can use artificial intelligence to our advantage whilst still being free to develop and deliver and interact. And the more we are free, the greater the potential for investigating and imagining and delivering fantastic products and great customer experiences. Maybe the robots are coming but they are bringing opportunity rather than disaster.

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