FUTURE OF WORK: Disrupting Human Capital with AI. (Part 2/2)
By Antoine Bruel, Head of Growth, Braincities Lab
This is the second part of my article on Artificial intelligence and how it transforms the labor market and more broadly, people’s personal and professional development. Read part 1 here.
Understand that everything I described last week is part of the destructive phase of the cycle, the most visible, the wave crashing on the beach as we wait for it to withdraw and unveil a new layer of freshly washed sand (I am so poetic). In all these cases depicted, we cannot minimize how automation and AI-powered machines are actually filling in for difficult or repetitive tasks, and without going as far as saying “freeing up”, it can definitely be seen as an opportunity to redirect workers towards higher value and better-paid jobs. It won’t be easy nor intuitive and it won’t happen on its own, nonetheless, if we step back and try to connect the dots, I have a hunch that the paradigms stemming from this shift will benefit the entire society. Structural unemployment as we know it could also be wiped out by the wave. At least partly. Let me explain.
3) Creative destruction
It seems we are able to precisely pinpoint one main economic and social cause for structural unemployment: it is the delays and inadequacy in the available workforce with real current needs for soft and hard skills demand in the economy, both in space and time. The root cause usually being human disruption by new technology as explained in the first section.
What if I told you we might have the technology to solve it? At least part of it, let’s not get cocky. But what if we could minimize these identified structural imbalances and maximize symbiosis between faster-emerging needs, but also disappearing ones pushed by exponential technological evolution, with an anticipatively guided active population? Our belief is that AI broadly speaking, as a field of technological research and innovation, has already started disrupting the workplace in this sense and soon how all of us approach the concept of career. It will enable us to foresee people’s true potential on the one hand and to anticipate emerging industrial trends & shifts, and therefore skills needed on the other hand. That is where it starts getting truly empowering: AI-based data analytics platforms will then be able to generate context-aware and business-specific recommendations, individualized and unbiased recommendations to optimize how we take macroeconomic policies, down to how any manager or employee in a company pilots her own career.
The key to thriving through this new paradigm of massive penetration of autonomous systems is to leverage these technologies to build a Human-Supportive Artificial Intelligence, endowed with judging and empathy capabilities to augment our own faculties and skills to better adapt and constantly add value to our contributions and role in the economy or even society as a whole. This focus of technology would be enabling not only employees in organizations but all decision makers and public figures to deeply and objectively understand how to value human wealth and guide active populations through these waves of disruption by anticipating and matching education, training and available workforce with rapidly emerging economic needs. AI is carving a new paradigm. This is the Future of Work.
China is no role model when it comes to controlling social impacts and industrial shifts and even if most probably will we become accustomed to such news of massive robotization events, it does not need to take so harsh and abrupt a form as the example I gave in the first part. Here in Europe, a few historical car manufacturers are taking the opposite approach by embracing their social responsibility. Anticipating the exponential aspect of massive robotization, these companies decided to take the bull by the horn and start implementing a strategy with 2025 as the horizon to rethink entirely the career management and internal mobility processes and paths. In light of this, we see Strategy and HR departments collaborating and turning to AI-based solutions to generate deeper insight into their employee’s potential and individualized recommendations on how to guide them through this structural shift. Such technology enables managers to better apprehend people’s career path and sync it with current and future needs in the company by investing continuously in the right people to push them forward at the right time. Similarly, when it comes to the robotization of battlefields (cf. example in part 1), studies show that potential post-traumatic effects might be deeper and more perverse in remote actors, like drone pilots, than they could be or currently are analyzed in jet pilots for instance. As French Army General Pierre de Villiers recently stated on French television, the digitalisation and robotisation of war must not lead to dehumanisation which is why it is paramount to maintain and monitor historical and paramount soldier qualities in these emerging roles we see appearing alongside these new technologies, namely emotional stability, courage, cohesion, abnegation, self-control etc. Monitoring heterogeneous sources of data like languages and team communication, body metrics and environmental conditions can nurture purpose-specific AI to contextualized information and generate adaptive recommendations to the right person at the right time.
4) AI is the threat; AI is the savior
Innovation and especially AI-led innovation should not be constantly seen as or applied to lowering all costs and production times to improve margins. These innovations should also be focusing on bringing higher value to everyone by freeing us up from lower added value and repetitive tasks on the one hand, and coaching, guiding, illuminating us by better understanding ourselves and making our environment responsive to us on the other hand. This is what a Human Supportive Artificial intelligence is meant for: a technology to augment our faculties by structuring and mining quantities and types of data never seen before (big data) generated both by us and our environment, and extracting value from it to better our daily lives in context-specific situations (your car will understand the road and traffic; your house will understand how you physically feel; your company will see your true potential and capitalize on it. (I invite you to read Daniel’s article explaining how and why it is paramount to ensure data reliability and individual protection in this data-driven society). In light of this we started working with companies aiming to do so with our currently in-production AI-based prototype: rather than passively endure the consequences of robotization and automation, they decided to invest in AI to bring value to employees by enhancing their employability, individualizing recommendations for training, to gain new and relevant skills.
In most organizations abruptly hit by artificial intelligence and autonomous systems, it is more obvious now than ever that Human Resources departments will play a key role in leading smooth structural shifts and change management. We have to keep in mind that such technologies cannot replace human instinct or sense of flair, which are the root of people social interactions. These technologies can process massive data and give us deep insight into complex units with minimum bias but it remains a decision making assistant. Automation will improve and accelerate easy tasks so that we as humans can focus on value-added processes. Predictive analytics can help us enhance hiring, retention, and succession planning by aggregating and structuring scattered and heterogeneous data on demographics, internal development, performance, people reviews and identify transversal skills & individual potential. HR leaders would then focus on leveraging this technology to detect, nurture and guide these talents within the organization, leading to higher retention of both people and therefore knowledge (lower turnover and more stability), higher productivity and therefore overall performance and higher income. Leading major shifts and guiding people through change is the toughest responsibility for HR managers which is why without the shadow of a doubt will they become central in implementing and ensuring team and corporate culture, promoting continuous learning, transversal promotions and overall turning companies into real organic entities through this watershed.
These phenomena, namely the exponential penetration of autonomous systems through robotization and automation, are inevitable, let’s face it. It is like an earth-wide ouija board where economic and social pressures for progress push research and innovation towards more intelligent and more autonomous systems and they slowly penetrate every aspect of our daily life. This evolution of society fuels a material anxiety, as fear of lowering wages, grows, but also existential anxiety as the economy shifts and the job market mutates. Nevertheless, all is not lost in my opinion as this next wave of innovation can also help us maintain our own relevance and added value in the foreseeable robotized economy by leveraging the ability of AI to augment our contribution and optimize our potential by guiding us on the right path. Undoubtedly, this future is still blurry and it will take efforts and evangelization which is why in this endeavor, human resources will play a key role in companies as this kind of technology will help and teach people to work alongside automation for example and therefore help us both make sense and leverage human-machine collaboration.
In this era, we could use the help of a Human-supportive AI endowed with judging and empathy capabilities for human capital optimization to measure our learning curves and readiness, in order to enable continuous symbiosis between individual self-fulfillment and structural shift in industries + accompanying emerging needs for skills. What if the AI and data-driven era is also the era where structural unemployment disappeared?
And to know more about how we ensure data reliability and people protection, read Daniel’s piece.