What to do when the Robots think for us

By Amie Weller Colbert & Hendrik Kruizinga — Founders of Lucid Smart Pill

“As more and more jobs are replaced by technology, people will have less work to do and ultimately will be sustained by payments from the Government.”
- Elon Musk — Futurist & CEO of Tesla & SpaceX
Image courtesy of Mindjet.com (2016).

The start of this year was punctuated with an announcement by Japanese firm Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance that they would be replacing 34 human workers with IBM’s artificial Intelligence system, Watson. Referred to as ‘cognitive technology’, Watson will help calculate insurance payouts based on an analysis of hospital records and patient histories, it is expected to boost productivity by 30%.

Not limited to insurance claim processors, Artificial Intelligence has already impacted a range of professional jobs including pharmacists, farmers, journalists & paralegals. Not to mention the 80% of stock trades that are executed in milliseconds by computers, the half a million surgeries over the past 12 months that were robot-assisted and Associated Press (the world’s oldest & largest newsgathering organisation) now using automation technology to generate news stories.

Whether the dire prediction by Elon Musk that robots will replace so many jobs that governments will have to institute a basic universal income, or the World Economic Forum’s forecast loss of 7.1 million jobs in the next 5 years across 15 leading economies — it is almost universally agreed that technological advances will result in the obliteration of many of the better known professions of the 20th century.

While two in three of the projected losses are initially expected to be in the office & administrative sector, says PwC analyst Jon Williams, “The next five to 10 years will see jobs in the professions — medicine, legal & professional services — starting to be replaced by computers & robots.”

Replaced or Transformed?

For several years now, many doctors have been using Artificial Intelligence systems to help diagnose and treat patients for the simple reason that computers are capable of problem-solving in a way that humans cannot. Because machines can process huge amounts of data and analyse it with complex algorithms, they are able to quickly & accurately identify patterns that humans cannot.

With such accessible automation, where technology is available to automate some or all of 60% of professions as of right now, it would be easy to assume that doctors might be ‘replaced’ in the not too distant future but this is unlikely to be the case. “You’re going to see doctors taking more of a role that involves personal interaction with patients and less of the role of trying to keep huge amounts of evidence in their heads. The nurse may become more prestigious than the doctor,” says Andrew Moore, Dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University.

This emphasis on human social skills is a relatively new one. In an information & technology dominated age the left brain, responsible for logic, analysis, computation and language, played the hero but it may be time for the right to steal the limelight.

“Lawyers. Doctors. Accountants. Engineers. That’s what our parents encouraged us to become. They were wrong. Gone is the age of “left-brain” dominance. The future belongs to a different kind of person with a different kind of mind: designers, inventors, teachers, storytellers — creative and empathic “right-brain” thinkers whose abilities mark the fault-line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.”
- Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind.

Right is the new Left

This is the central premise of the book A Whole New Mind by New York Times Best Seller & Behavioural Science Expert Daniel Pink. The right brain is responsible for creativity, imagination, intuition & empathy and Pink argues that in the current economic and technological environment, mastering this side of the brain is what will distinguish us from computers and assist us in solving problems they would struggle to. Even in 2017 we still don’t fully understand how our right brain works but the latest neuroscience research suggests that our emotions & thinking are intertwined with our bodily state which means how we are affected by hormones could produce a different outcome or behavioural response. This kind of physical response will be challenging to model in robots which is why socially interactive jobs centred around creativity, complex decisions, persuasion, negotiation and leadership will remain human for the foreseeable future.

Unleashing the potential of the right brain does not mean that jobs traditionally perceived as ‘left brained’ are no longer relevant — quite the opposite in fact. The rise of AI will create millions of new jobs — 2.1 million according to World Economic Forum — particularly in the science, technology, engineering and math streams. But as change will be more of a constant than ever before learning them won’t end at 22.

Instead it will be a continuous process and those who the unique human abilities Pink highlights (design, story, play, symphony, empathy & meaning) will truly excel.

Amie Weller Colbert is the Co-Founder and CXO (Chief Experience Officer) at Lucid Smart Pill (lucid.me).

Fun Facts!
AGE: 34

AREA OF EXPERTISE: Marketing & Business Strategy

HOBBIES: Spending time with my bub Rayner, watching him develop & grow. Cooking (especially with spices) & spending time outdoors, especially at the beach.

DREAM JOB: I’m in it! After years of agency & consulting work, it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to apply my own advice to my own business (practice what I preach!) and see its direct impact.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: “The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” (Socrates)