If you’re reading this, I’m just going to assume you’re a human being. You can be recognized by many external features, such as your 10 fingers, the fact you walk — and stand up — straight and your general shape and posture. However, that’s just what you look like. Do you actually know how to BE a human and do you know that we aren’t always (or actually, hardly) being the best humans we can be? Let me tell you this: we have forgotten what it’s like to actually be human.
We’re humans, we love making things easier
Technology is probably one of the most important things in our lives today. Not only has it made many jobs a lot easier and safer, but it’s also a lot of fun to use on a daily basis. We used to do everything by hand, from lighting the street lights to connecting phone calls and many other jobs or around-the-house chores. Technology has taken over a lot of muscle-powered tasks, but also some intelligent activities like making calculations or analyzing data and predicting outcomes. Each day, we rely heavier on technology, its strength, and intelligence. With the help of Artificial Intelligence even more so, as we can now build technology to help us think, make decisions, and run autonomously in some cases.
Where “back in the days” (and I don’t even mean long ago) smart technology merely supported our human brain, we’re growing towards a world where technology no longer only takes over the “human labor/muscle-power” tasks, but also the “human intelligence” tasks. It’s a natural course, actually. Did you know people used to light streetlights with a candle on a stick? They were replaced by electricity. Large numbers of bookkeepers where replaced or repositioned thanks to automated bookkeeping systems and, nowadays, we see cashiers being replaced by self-scanning systems. We’re humans and we love automating things in our lives to make it less time-consuming. The less we have to do ourselves, the easier things become. But the smarter we get in building automation, the more things will be taken over. Soon, we’ll be going from a smart and productive species to a lazy species in a largely automated world.
Forgetting how to human
Because of our fascination for automation and optimizing our lives, we rely less and less on our own capabilities. If you worked in the early days’ construction, you had to be stronger than a regular person. If you were a bookkeeper, you’d have to be proficient in mathematics. But now we have machines that are easily stronger than any human alive and we have computers that can solve mathematical problems in a fraction of a second.
So the specific traits we have as humans and professionals are fading. We are slowly but surely drifting away from our human instincts. We’re getting less creative because computers are now solving the problems we used to use our creativity for. We’re forgetting how to build (professional) relationships because we hide behind online profiles or let “smart” chatbots talk to our customers. The more “human-specific” traits we automate, the less we are actually needed in this world. Moving away from what sets us apart from all other animals (our intelligence, creativity, etc.) means we’re forgetting how to (be) human.
Don’t compete with a machine, cooperate with it
In addition to us moving away from what we’re actually good at, it seems that didn’t just move away from that, but actually moved more towards robotization of ourselves. We’ve grown to believe that we should all be very productive, efficient, and hard at work. This means less attention to a personal touch or creativity and more focus on producing and being busy. But being productive and efficient is the strong suit of robots. We’re anything BUT super-efficient. You can see it in many businesses nowadays where a personal touch is gone and a “quick and efficient outcome” is the only thing that matters. Which is fine, if 100% of your workforce consists of robots.
Why are employees in stores more focussed on filling the shelves than helping people make buyers decisions? Why are call-center employees reading scripts rather than having an open, problem solving or relationship-building conversation? Why are caretakers running errands while “conversational AI robots” are talking to the lonely elderly? Maybe we have gotten the feeling that we need to compete with automation and “outproduce” it. But there’s no competing with AI and automation, it’s just not the same. It’s like trying to race an airplane with a car when you need to cover 1000 miles. You cannot judge the car on being slower or arriving later, it’ll take 9 hours longer than by plane. On the other hand, you can’t judge the plane on not having seen any of the landscapes, as it’s moving up above the clouds. Same with humans. Don’t try and outwork a robot, it’s going to be faster and more precise. But don’t let the robot try and out-human you.
So rather than being a flesh-and-blood robot that is striving for efficiency and neglects human traits, become the most human- human being you can be. Businesses also need to understand that a chatbot isn’t always a great solution when you want to actually talk to people. On the other hand, a human answering questions that can easily be solved with an FAQ and are being asked 78 times per day…yes, they can actually be outsourced to a machine. Don’t compete with machines, cooperate with them.
Automation and AI can actually make us more human
I’m definitely not saying we should stop automating things. In fact, I think we should automate more things! But what we automate should be the processes in our daily — and professional — lives. We should position automation and smart technology in places where it’s simply stronger than us. Computers are far better at calculating, so let them! Machines are way better at lifting heavy things or assembling products. No worries, let hem assemble. Machines can work 24/7, don’t need sick days, and will never get tired. We can never own those traits and we don’t need them.
On the other hand, let us do more creative work. We can use automation to take over some of our mundane tasks. It will create time for us. The time that we now spend on processes and that we can start using in different ways. We can use our creativity to solve real-world problems, increase brand equity for the companies we work for, or find new ways to conduct business. Use some of that freed up time to increase the interactions you have with customers, suppliers, and co-workers. Understand what it is people really value, build stronger relationships, and make employees and customers want to stick around a lot longer….just because they like who YOU are. Understand what ethics are and become a guardian of data, algorithms, and the way we conduct business. There are so many human traits that we, in today’s world, just “don’t have the time for”. Now we can create that time and start doing what we are actually good at.
Here’s the gist: we suck at many things. We aren’t capable of quickly solving huge mathematical problems, nor can we be super productive 100% of our working time. We used to try it though, simply because we didn’t have anything that could do it for us. There was nothing else available other than our own hands, brains, and efforts. Over the years we started inventing tools, machines, and — further down the line — algorithms that could take over these tasks for us. Simply because we built things that could do it better than we could. But on the other end of the spectrum is things that we are far superior at. Creative thinking and building relationships are amongst those. They aren’t a source of worry and something we quickly need to quickly build a machine for so it can take over. It doesn’t have to be taken over from us. Opposed to the heavy lifting and difficult calculations that machines are better at, these are our strong suits. So let’s embrace being human and let the machines do what they do best (so that WE can do what WE do best)!