AI and the way home

James gets up today, gets ready for work, fix his kids’ lunches, and jumps on the local bus. As soon as he finds a seat at the back, he quickly reaches for his book. He usually reads about Stoicism, or something similar, as a daily reminder of how he wants to live his life. To him, Stoicism as a practice is as relevant today as it was thousands of years ago. At this moment, he looks up at everyone in the bus and notices that most are glued to their phone. James prefers books, as a way of focusing him to start the day.

“When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love …” 
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

He arrives at his job as manager of an IT recruiting team. The team recruits top technology pros to join its clients as employees or contractors. He is exposed to new companies and technologies on a daily basis. Many of these companies and solutions should make life better for those who use them. But he also sees that these same technologies will potentially eliminate a lot of jobs for others.

This morning, his team meets to decide what clients it should prioritize, based on the technology and the company. They know that all the best tech candidates have many companies to chose from, so they decide to focus only on the most interesting clients. This candidate shortage is not a short-term trend and will only get worse until Artificial Intelligence (AI) covers many of these roles.

He thinks about his IT recruiting business. Recruiting will continue to move towards automation over the next few years. Probably all but the best recruiters will be replaced by AI.

At lunch James checks Twitter to see what the “big boys” are talking about:
mostly a combination of philosophy and the future. He sees everything important moving into the future and the past at the same time, away from the post-war economic model that now seems like an anomaly. He listens to futurists talk about technology and the coming changes, while also talking about reverting to the past in some cases. He finds an image of a twenty-something-year-old kid on stage presenting to a room packed with older men taking notes — the most powerful Venture Capital firms in the world, representing a big chunk of the money in the US. How many people are as smart as that kid on stage? He figures that the “1-percenters” have permanently moved their reps from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. He thinks about all the people caught in the transition from a labour-driven to technology-driven world.

His afternoon consists of working on current recruiting roles and researching how to build the company model for the future. Usually, the answer involves incorporating modern relationship marketing strategies as a way to amplify his company’s reach and interaction with its candidates and clients. Relationships are not as easily automated.

On his bus ride home, he wonders what meaningful work will be left for most humans. He has read many articles on the subject like this one from The Atlantic. He sees all these people doing jobs that can and will be automated. How many are thinking and worried about this today? Will current workers be able to retrain fast enough and are students developing the right skills in school? Everyone needs to take a close look at how their talents align with this fast-changing world. Some will imagine and create new technology. Others will combine technology, communication, and influence to create new paths. Others will work where logic ends and emotion begins — the work that only humans can do, he hopes.

James knows he thinks too much.

There are many things about today that he loves. The internet has given him access to so many great minds. He learns at a much faster pace. He sees how much easier it is to collaborate with people and thinks of future creative opportunities. On a bigger scale, he’s hopeful that the new wave of startups and AI will accelerate the cure for so many diseases that plague us. The “cures” seem to have eluded the big organizations of the twentieth century, but hopefully more independent and disruptive healthtech startups will use AI to find the answers.

After work, he arrives at the school to pick up his wife. She is finishing up with her student, a young girl, who has autism. This is a very different scene from what he encounters during his day. His wife is sitting down, close to the girl. The little girl seems agitated, but his wife just smiles and talks to her softly, totally focused, and oblivious to anything else going on. Time stands still as the two are in no rush to move the soothing process along — it will happen when it happens. Slowly the girl starts to relax, smiles back and engages with his wife.They are both happy now, enjoying the moment together. This whole scene is more powerful than anything he’s read or thought about today.
It reminds him that the connection between humans cannot be completely automated — that there is something much bigger there.

As the little girl leaves with her parents and waves goodbye, he finally gets the chance to hug his wife. As he hugs her, he feels the bones in her chest, where the doctors removed the tumors. The cancer is still in her body. He thinks again about AI, maybe as the best hope for his wife and others. “It’s so good to see you — I missed you today, Penelope”.