In the age of AI, why people count more than ever

Photo by Alex Knight from Pexels

Written by Lisa Glass.

I recently listened to a podcast about information overload: the modern affliction where you feel like you’re drowning in emails and news feeds and think you will never get on top of them. 

The hosts went on to say that the exact same complaint was common among medieval scholars after the advent of the printing press. Six hundred years ago, people were stressed because there were so many books to read, and so little time! 

The point was that while we recognise that our time has some unique challenges, some of our issues have arisen time and again through history, and our essential humanness continues relatively unscathed. 

As a person who has always worked with words in some way or another, I have paid attention to the advent of bots touted as being able to replace writers and journalists. These have already produced entire news stories composed via artificial intelligence.

In our homes and handbags most of us have a virtual assistant that can tell us anything from the time in London to what to cook with half-a-kilo of mince and some mushrooms.

 Hey Siri: is beef stroganoff paleo? 

And if you have an amazon Alexa in your home, I warn you never to let an eight-year-old start a game of 20-questions with it.

Fun and helpful as these devices are, there’s growing concern about the rise of the robots, and what it will mean for our jobs. We’ve already seen some roles changed dramatically (accountant, librarian, researcher, doctor) thanks to technology, and others (taxi driver, PA, checkout operator) threatened or diminished by non-human alternatives like self-driving cars, digital assistants and automated shopping. 

But’s important to note that the jobs we perform and the nature of our roles has constantly changed, and although the pace may have increased, we have always had to adapt. Switchboard operators and typesetters went by the wayside with as little fanfare as the lamplighters and night cart drivers of earlier decades. 

 What stays the same is our fundamental need to convey ideas and feeling and to build and develop relationships with one another. Teamwork, problem solving, communication and emotional intelligence are of growing importance when it comes to giving people and organisations an edge. 

In a world where everyone can calculate pi to 15 decimal places and find out the population of Lisbon in 1.4 seconds, adaptability and empathy grow in value, and pure knowledge-retention and ‘hard skills’ diminish in importance. 

Information overload means the targeting and clarity of your messaging is more important than ever, and the pressure of being constantly-connected means high EQ and empathy are essential attributes, not just ‘nice to haves’. 

Effective business relies on trusting relationships and good communication, and that will continue to be true, regardless of the role AI take in our lives.