How AI Will (and Won’t) Change the Way You Work, According to an Expert

October 11, 2018

It’s estimated that, globally, as many as 375 million people may need to switch occupational categories and learn new skills by 2030. That’s because artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are predicted to both displace millions of jobs and create millions of new ones.

But according to Rand Hindi, co-founder and CEO of technology company Snips and a keynote speaker at Talent Connect 2018, the future skills that people will need most are not technical. They’re the human skills that machines just can’t replicate—and never will.

“The idea that AI someday will be able to replace all human tasks is complete science fiction,” says Rand. “At best, AI will do logical tasks, which is already a big deal. But humans will remain to do emotional tasks.”

Here are Rand’s three predictions around what the fourth industrial revolution will mean for the workforces of tomorrow (talent professionals included)—and what skills will matter most in the age of machines.

Prediction #1: AI will never replace humans, because it’s incapable of emotional intelligence

AI is everywhere these days—just ask your smart speakers, like Alexa. And with AI and automation expected to disrupt virtually every industry, many people (including plenty of recruiters) are concerned about losing their jobs to machines. But Rand, a data scientist, argues that these fears are largely fueled by a misunderstanding about what AI actually is, and what it can and can’t do.

“AI is one of those things that everybody’s talking about, but nobody is able to explain what it is,” he says. “Artificial intelligence is, quite simply, reproducing human behavior in a machine.”

Rand points out that by using techniques like machine learning, AI can learn from and make logical decisions based on the data it’s been given. That means that any logic-associated task can be automated. But tasks that require emotional intelligence (EQ) are a whole different story.

“Emotional intelligence is extremely important in everyday life,” says Rand. “It’s also how you solve paradoxes. A paradox is something logic cannot solve. The way that you solve this is by using your emotional intelligence to bypass what logic has failed to do.”

For Rand, that’s what most movie depictions of AI get wrong, as they conflate logical reasoning with emotional task-solving. Where a human can use a mix of logic and EQ to solve a paradoxical problem, a machine will always have to rely on logic alone, limiting its decision-making capabilities.

This means that human talent will never become obsolete.

“I can bet you that within a few years, you’re not even going to use the term ‘artificial intelligence’ anymore,” says Rand. “We’re going to give up this fake, false idea that human intelligence can be recreated in a machine, and we’re going to focus on what machines are: tools.”

Prediction #2: AI will handle logical tasks, freeing up humans to focus on the emotional aspects of work they enjoy

Rand believes that when people understand more about the possibilities and limitations of AI, they’ll see that more automation in the workplace brings us the best of both worlds.

“The best combination you can get isn’t artificial intelligence alone, or a human alone,” he says. “We have to stop thinking of humans versus machines. The best combination is when you combine human intelligence and artificial intelligence.”

Since humans will never be able to match the IQ of AI, Rand predicts that EQ will become even more valuable to employers in the future. This is already happening: EQ is predicted to be one of the most in-demand workplace skills by 2020.

“AI will basically do logically tasks,” says Rand. “And that’s a very big deal, because logical tasks represent such a big part of what we’re doing today. We’re going to focus on emotional tasks, because we know now that machines cannot do that.”

This coexistence between humans and machines will not lead to a bleak, dystopian future à la The Fifth Element or The Terminator. In fact, Rand predicts that as machines take over the mechanical aspects of jobs, this will ultimately make work feel more human—and more enjoyable.

“People don’t want to be machines,” he says. “Actually, what people want is to feel more emotions. They want things that are very, very human. They effectively want to get rid of all the mechanical, machine tasks that we’re doing on a daily basis, so that we can concentrate on things that make us feel good—that give us purpose, that we’re passionate about. Things that effectively make us feel like we’re on holiday, even when we’re working.”

Prediction #3: As hard skills become automatable, demand for soft skills will increase

While machines won’t replace human employees, they will cause a major shift in job requirements. Hard skills, which are teachable and logical, are at a greater risk of automation. But soft skills often require a high level of EQ and are therefore impossible for machines to learn—making them even more desirable.

“My conviction today is that soft skills are in fact what people need to learn in the future,” Rand predicts. “Hard skills are going to be potentially automatable.”

This shift will require recruiters to rethink their hiring strategies to uncover soft skills. For some candidates, this will mean reskilling to keep their skill set relevant to the changing demands of the workforce. Companies, too, should consider offering learning opportunities to employees if they want to keep their skill base up-to-date.

“If we need to start learning effectively how to do soft skills, that’s a big paradigm shift from the educational system today,” Rand points out. “This idea that you’re learning a hard skill for four years and doing that for the rest of your life kind of makes no sense anymore. And many governments, including in France, are working actively to promote continuous adapting learning.”

For companies that promote a culture of continuous learning and embrace the emotional aspect of work, the future is bright. Machines can handle logical, mechanical, boring tasks quicker, cheaper, and better than any human ever can. And employees will find even more meaning and purpose in their work, because it will be work that only a human can do.

In doing so, work will feel more like a vacation, says Rand, and fears about technology replacing us can be saved for the big screen.

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