The AI tsunami will dominate the workplace
On June 30th, I had the honor to deliver the commencement address of Athens MBA, one of the finest MBA programs in Europe, talking about the massive changes that AI is expected to bring to the future workplace.
In our times, as well as the last couple of decades, it is safe to assume that, whether you’re an entry-level employee or a CEO, you will most probably need to understand the internet and mobile technology to succeed in any workplace.
Artificial Intelligence is the next big thing on this list in the years to come. This will not necessarily mean that you will have to be a great AI engineer or a skillful Python programmer but, up to a certain point, you’re expected to have to get a grasp of it, a real understanding of its functions.
It’s just like the early days of PCs in the 80s, or the internet in the 90s, or mobile in the years that followed, but with a twist, as AI is foreseen to change the workplace more than any other technology in the past.
The 3 types of AI to expect
There are 3 types of AI that, besides their own functionalities, serve also as as basis of its development stages in the years to come, from… baby steps to full maturity:
- Narrow AI: dedicated to assist with or take over specific tasks, AI’s first step in the workplace, for the next 10 years.
- General AI: Takes knowledge from one domain, transfers to another domain, becoming smarter, working by the side of humans.
- Super AI: Machines that are an order of magnitude smarter than humans.
To better understand the role artificial intelligence will play
in our lives, let’s think about the
things we’ve achieved with technology in general in the past.
In the images we see two professions that no longer exist. In the first picture we can see the people who were responsible for setting up the bowling pins before the machines that do it now.
In the next we see a man whose job it was to wake people up in the morning before alarm clocks became commercially available. Due to the development of technology, professions like these have disappeared and subsequently, professions that did not exist, have been created.
Although there is an ongoing debate about the possible consequences of technological development, it might be good to focus on something that we will all, most probably agree on, that is about the role of technology, to take ovhe boring and repetitive tasks to allow people to be more creative and realize their potential.
That is until now at least, before AI, witnessing all this technological progress making our lives become easier. When artificial intelligence enters the equation, a significant difference emerges, as it will not only help us with making the tasks even more effective, but also thinking of how to make them better.
From doing things better to thinking better, that is.
AI here and now: the Narrow AI
So let’s first look at examples from Narrow AI, the first stage of artificial intelligence that will concern us for the next 10 years:
GPS software in UPS tracks is set up so that they can never take a left turn. Would a human ever bother to analyze if it makes sense to avoid left turns? How boring is this? Not for AI! Statistics confirm that left-hand turns are considerably more dangerous than right-hand turns, chiefly because by turning left you’re generally turning against the flow of oncoming vehicles, leading to more crashes. According to a study conducted by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Association with the help of AI, around 61% of crashes occur while crossing an intersection that requires left turns, as opposed to just 3.1% involving right-hand turns.
So what about fuel economy? UPS is apparently saving anywhere between 15,000 and 30,000 tons of fuel per year by only making right-hand turns, simply because drivers are more likely to maintain a steady pace!
Another example is to build and maintain a Knowledge Base. It is a repetitive, on-going and meticulous task that requires dedication and only a few organizations have already done this with consistency. And it can only get worse, as your customers keep talking, your agents keep resolving, and knowledge is spread in unstructured data like voice calls, emails, chats and memos; who will organize it?
With the power of AI you can process all this big, dark as they are called, data that already exist, that no human could process because of their volume and were left unexplored until now.
About the bigger picture
Having already looked into those very handy applications of AI, it would be only fair to have a look on the other side of the story, with Narrow AI failing most of the times where a higher level of abstraction is needed, that is the possibility to see the bigger picture in something, like here:
Some months ago I read this article, that Artificial Intelligence easily beats a human fighter pilot as it swept him in a simulated dogfight by 5-0. However, I want us to focus on how the human pilot will feel. Pilots are extremely trained and well paid and in the near future AI will replace them. Are they prepared for such a thing? Will they have the motivation to start looking for new careers?
Most of you are highly skilled professionals that do mental work, however I bet that some of your skills will be better delivered by AI in the next few years. Are you mentally prepared for such a thing?
About General AI and Super AI
The vast majority of futurists believe that at some point AI will reach a higher IQ than the human equivalent. Some of them say that this will happen within the next 20 years, others in 30 or maybe even 40, but in any case, the vast majority of them believes that this is purely a matter of time and nothing more.
And this is how we measure intelligence. We say that a Chimp with 40 is a bit dumb, I mean they can’t even have a basic discussion about weather, but we humans with 100 IQ, we are very intelligent. Why? I mean it could be to be really intelligent that you should have an IQ of 1,000. Or 10,000. As Neil DeGrace Tyson said, our DNA differs from chimps by just 2%, maybe also our intelligence differs by 2%, that is we are only 2% smarter, and to have space for intelligence much more than the graph shows!
A typical AI engine like Apple Siri, has around 23 in IQ. The turning point will be when AI will manage to code better than humans, so let’s say by reaching 100 IQ. At that point, imagine 1b cores of AI to work in order to double its IQ to 200. While this may happen in 10h. And now imagine 1b cores of the new AI trying to develop the newer AI version of IQ 400. And this may be accomplished in 5h, and so on…
And when this happens, this is how the graph will look like. What does an IQ of 10,000 mean? I mean from 40 to 100, which is our difference with chimps, is enough to take you to the moon or to study quantum physics. What about from 100 to 10,000? Would it be enough to imagine universes into its digital brains? Or to change the laws of physics just by a simple thought?
AI will change our world not only more than we imagine, but more than we CAN imagine…
The skills of the future
So what are the future-proof skills that us humans should invest in? Skills that will be the last to be replaced by AI, if not at all, that will keep us in the workplace equation in the years to come?
1.Critical thinking and scientific method
Disclaimer: Scientific method does not mean knowing the full array of thermodynamic equations. The scientific method is the process of objectively establishing facts through testing and experimentation. The basic process that involves making an observation, forming a hypothesis, making a prediction, conducting an experiment and finally analyzing the results.
Moreover, we should always be ready to challenge our beliefs and to prepare a framework, the “terms and conditions” for our beliefs to be proven wrong.
2. Keep learning
If you know how to read books and take knowledge out of them, you possess a super power, the ability to learn anything new when your existing knowledge may become obsolete.
Homo Sapiens learned to survive by accumulating knowledge, either to create a mental map of their territory or to gather information about the growth patterns of each plant and the habits of each animal, which foods were nourishing, which made you sick, and how to use others as cures.
Our interactions with modern learning methods, such as sitting in lecture theatres, reading textbooks, and watching videos, are the blink of an eye compared to the hundreds of thousands of years of learning by doing.
Learning is the very evolutional survival instinct that brought us where we are today and it’s the only way to stay ahead and survive through the technological exponential growth in the years ahead.
3. Focus on the importance of mindfulness and mental health
Let’s put our happiness on the spotlight! Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting it without judgment. Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in stress reduction and overall happiness.
Increasing our capacity for mindfulness supports many attitudes that contribute to a satisfied life. Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, helps us become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events. By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are better able to form deep connections with others.
4. Being kind!
Actually, the stronger we are, the more kind we should be.
And this is where you may ask yourself, “are we strong, are we privileged”? Of course you are the privileged, now privileged are not only the selected few, but all those who have the intellect to rise up to the challenges of the new era.
You are living in 2022, you are smart enough to finish your studies and graduate programs, you even have the patience to study and learn new things!
These are superpowers that you own because of pure luck, while the vast majority of the population on earth do not have, so here comes an obligation: to give back to society through your kindness!