How human-AI collaboration could kickstart the economy

Back in the early 80's, offices were still full of typewriters rather than computers. Visionaries such as Steve Jobs preached that personal computers would enable teams to work more efficiently and create new opportunities. But many believed that the arrival of technology would be at the expense of their jobs. We all know how that story ended.

Even 25 years ago, cloud architects, UX designers, app developers, social media, and community managers didn't exist. But once again, we have the same concerns that the automated workplace will replace human workers. The reality is that human creativity, collaboration, and reflection will always take centre stage. 

We need to change the narrative and begin building a more resilient AI-ready workforce.

Although AI and machine learning are a dynamic duo that can perform many tasks better than humans in almost any occupation, it will never perform all functions needed to complete an entire job. Automation works best when handling repetitive, mundane, and robotic tasks. But it has an Achilles heel too. A lack of creative and social intelligence means that human-AI collaboration will play a critical role in getting the job done.

It's time for human employees to break free from a robotic existence and get back to doing what they do best, being human. Content creation, communication, empathy, critical thinking, management, and strategy are just a few human skills where machines cannot compete.

AI is serendipity. It is here to liberate us from routine jobs, and it is here to remind us what it is that makes us human.

Dr. Kai-Fu Lee

As humans, we are often guilty of underestimating our strengths and what comes naturally to us. We beat ourselves up for not remembering telephone numbers or recalling information like we used to before we relied on our smartphones for everything. Sure, machines can now beat most of us in a game of chess or Go, but it cannot understand intonation, sentiment, or the emotion of its human opponent. 

Machines are also hopeless at navigating unfamiliar landscapes or manipulating objects. Contrary to what you read in the articles dominating your newsfeeds, machines cannot replace employees. But there is an increasing realization that human and machine intelligence perfectly complement each other.

What we perceive as difficult problems are easy for machines to solve in a fraction of the time. Equally, what we find easy will make little or no sense to our new virtual colleagues. Ironically, the more we lean on technology to automate tasks, it increases the value of human skills required to solve problems that machines cannot perform. Welcome to a brave new world of collaborative intelligence.

Can Human-AI collaboration prevent us repeating the same mistakes?

As humans, we are guilty of creating more problems than solutions with AI technology. Predictive policingthe weaponization of space, and misuse of facial recognition are but a few examples that highlight the fragility of the human condition. But collaborative intelligence could unlock AI's potential to do good in the world and move humanity forward once again.

We are already witnessing what happens when machines learn to be biased and prejudiced from the data that we feed them. Typically, this results in questionable behaviour. Fortunately, when looking into that black mirror, we do not like what we see in our own reflection. Now is the time to start righting those wrongs and building a very different future.

It is in our reach to build networks of humans and machines that sense, think, and collaborate with greater efficacy than either humans or AI systems alone.

The World Economic Forum

We need to accept that humans and machines work better together and play to the strengths and weaknesses of a team. The future of work will consist of human-AI collaboration that elevates the other's skills and capabilities.

In AI-dominated healthcare, where machines analyse large data sets, a Doctor's biggest skill will be their bedside manner. For some, this will mean improving social skills such as empathy and the ability to listen to their patients' concerns. Rather than take your job, it is much more likely to change it.

Working with AI, not against it

Rather than worrying about robots coming to take your job, it's time to leave the mundane tasks to AI and think about the more significant role that you can play in the future. 

Employees that are flexible and open to a path of continuous learning will continue to thrive.

But employers have a crucial role in supporting and developing individuals through this transition.

Those that replace employees with automation will quickly fall behind. However, businesses that play the long game by focusing on human-AI collaboration will create a much more resilient workforce that turns adversity into an advantage and play a crucial role in kickstarting the economy.

If we dare to look into our immediate future and life in a postcrisis world, we will need a digital mindset to prosper. Think evolution, not revolution, where we celebrate human empowerment, not displacement. But to get to this utopia, businesses have a responsibility to bring everyone along for the ride by developing the essential human skills required to align AI-augmented work with its aspirations for the future.


Agnieszka Matyaszek
prefix 3 years ago
Very pleasant read. I agree, AI can’t learn empathy. I dream on human friendly digital world. We need more human power to achieve it. Working together, to grow better AI is the solution.
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