With the proliferation of technology across all sectors and areas of interest, articles disseminating news about how robots will take our jobs can incite feelings of anxiety and fear. Our survival in this new world of artificial intelligence will require a paradigm shift from fear to empowerment by leveraging our ability to learn continuously. The movie “I,Robot”, released in 2004, fast forwarded us to a time when the Internet of Things (IoT) was fully realized. Looking at the world through this lens, Will Smith took us through a roller coaster of emotions (anxiety, uncertainty, fear, and ultimately empowerment by the end of the movie) as he sought to understand more about the bots who had begun to take over his world. While the bots’ role in society was intended to be a help and not hindrance, the conspiracy theory was fueled by the drive for power by one human, inciting unrest and uproar. This movie is a simple lesson for the emotional process we will be challenged by as we approach a new era in tech. At the time I didn’t quite get why Smith was so hostile in the movie, now examining my own uncertainty about what the future holds, I have clarity about Smith’s struggles with the looming threat of a robot replacing me.
Interested in learning more about the future of work, I attended a seminar at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business and was not prepared for what I was about to hear. For me, working in tech has been a Venn diagram of strategy, technology, and people, with technology leading the thought process for the “what” and “how”. If you are savvy, you know the “why” is your justification aligning with your business strategy, however, the “who” can change based on the objective determined by the strategy. And traditionally, the “who” most times, was an after thought, until UX/UI, Product Management, and other domain expertise that integrates user experience into the product strategy became prominent in tech.
This was my first visit to an executive conference at Georgia Tech, and the thought-provoking discussions by business leaders from various companies were engaging and enlightening. At the end of the day, this was another experience for me validating how we are all facing the same dilemma, no matter what company we work for. Then a pleasant thought occurred to me in the midst of all the questions, comments, and conversation:
Right now, while it seems robots may be taking over, I never stopped to consider the one thing it can never be: Human. While this may sound glaringly obvious, the deeper notion is, what is it about humanity which gives us competitive advantage over anything we create?
Humans have a long history that illustrates our ability to perceive, process, adapt, change, and create. Why is this time any different?
The afternoon seminar featuring Dr. Ed Hess, Dr. Saby Mitra, and Dr. Nikoloas Vasiloglou, created an environment for a lively discussion around learning & development, artificial intelligence, and data analytics in the context of the future of work. As I listened intently to the seeds of information planted with business leaders, my mind quickly latched on to the discussion of how tech will become less of the focus and human-connectedness, in a real, not virtual sense, will once again take center stage to usher in an era where “love” will be an action with a prominent place in corporate culture. Exciting right?! And guess what generation already has a jump on this concept: Millennials, the ones who have been getting a bad rap about their “questionable” behaviors and idiosyncratic thought processes.
This new perceived era where tech+love live harmoniously together in the corporate environment minimizes the gloom and doom mentality of futuristic movies. I, Robot, for example, (or insert your favorite sci-fi movie here), is one of many movies which depict humans as slaves to robots and make us believe their storyline is a possible reality. Truth be told, bots taking over can be just a storyline, or it can become reality, but it’s what we allow.
I walked away from GT’s executive session thinking we as leaders, have the opportunity to leave our mark on the culture, setting future generations up for success across boundaries not yet achieved. Not only will they have the efficiency and convenience of living in a highly technological and sophisticated world, they can also have a deeper bond as humans, allowing our God-given purpose to live and work in a way no one ever thought was truly probable.
So here is my challenge to you: As you go forward, take the opportunity to lay a foundation in which a continuous learning process drives you to connect more, collaborate more, and create more. This is where we will find our competitive advantage over bots, and technology will continue to be the “what” and “how” bringing us together not in fear, but in love. Whether as the consumer, or the technical team building/supporting the solution, this mentality shift will not only entail learning about tech trends and developing sought after skills, but equally important, investing in emotional intelligence, which serves a higher power and purpose: EQ is the one skill a robot will not master.