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The Robots are Coming.

The world of Agile coaching will never be the same

It is 8:55 am. Mark, a scrum master with Altea corporation, is swiftly climbing the office stairs. He wants to reach the daily standup on time. Yesterday evening’s discussion with coach Lea around the steady increase in technical debt has been on his mind, and he intends to bring that up in the team discussion today. Lea also suggested a few modifications to the plan. Some features can wait, and it would be wiser to pick up a few more refactoring stories in the next sprint.

Susan, a developer at Altea corporation in the same team as Mark, has been getting reminders daily from her coach Lea. Her code’s cyclomatic complexity scores have been way off the mark for the last few weeks. After nagging her a few days, Lea fixed some of the code herself and sent it to Suzan as a reference so she could handle and fix the rest of it.

Did you imagine Lea as a person? What if Lea was a program powered by technology?

I ran a poll on LinkedIn a few days ago, and out of 20 votes I got so far, this is how it looks:

More than 50% said they would love a good virtual assistant coach, followed by, of course, the sceptics, writing off this sci-fi mumbo jumbo.

Robert A. Heinlein — Everything is theoretically… (brainyquote.com)

What appears impossible today, technology brings it into the realm of the possible and eventually into the mundane.

Imagine someone mentioning in the court of Alexander, The Great, that someday humans could cross the continents in a matter of hours by flying great distances. They would be ridiculed and made fun of. Today air travel is a mundane activity. Frequent flyers, especially those who open their laptops in flight, don’t even realise the miracle and magic — they are on a plane a few thousand feet in the air and go about their work routinely. Flying is a non-event for them. An aeroplane flies. No big deal!

The rapid advancements we have made in Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning, Quantum computing and other technologies bring us to frontiers that we have previously ruled out as far too complex to automate or robotise. Those tasks were considered so complex that only humans could handle them.

Like the industrial revolutions so far, advancements in technologies will continue to disrupt in the days to come. Similar to the other disruptive technologies we have experienced so far, those effects are felt in the decades to come, not immediately. The Internet was invented in the 1970s, yet it took the 90s to become mainstream.

Technology is already advancing at a rapid pace. In 2020, a college student, Liam Porr, used GPT-3 to write fake blog posts and ended up at the top of Hacker News [link]. If AI can write blog posts, why cannot it advise the Scrum Master or a developer?

Indeed, we are still talking about specialised or narrow AI applications, and the holy grain — AGI — Artificial General Intelligence and Artificial Super Intelligence are pretty far, maybe several decades away still.

YVPAN.jpg (1920×1080) (imgur.com)

While the likes of R2D2 and C-3PO are still far off, programs that can make our lives better and simpler are already on the horizon.

Several challenges need to be solved before Lea; the robot can be our virtual business coach, and so, for now, the 15 Billion dollar coaching industry does not have a direct threat from robots.

However, we live in a capitalist world that thrives on creative destruction; the old makes way for the new as technologies advance. In Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (1942), the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter wrote as he coined the term “Creative Destruction.”

The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organisational development from the craft shop to such concerns as U.S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation — if I may use that biological term — that incessantly revolutionises the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism. (p. 83)

Those industrial mutations will continue building, destroying and rebuilding the business and operating models. No, not even the world of agile coaching or business coaching will be immune to it. We indeed have more questions than answers as of today. As we solve these questions, a new world will emerge, one that will be pretty different from the one we live in today. Some will thrive in it, and some will be scared of it.

The robots are, anyways, coming. Keep watching this space.

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