Artificial Intelligence’s Kryptonite
FRONT OF THE ROOM – Brian Lange
There are capabilities humans have that are difficult for technology to replace.
I spend my work-life on the frontlines of the (mostly) American workplace. It’s a unique vantage point and, quite frankly, a privileged spot from which to experience the hopes, fears, changes and potential of the workforce. So, it has been with keen interest that I have watched the impact of technology on work over the years: From robots to machine learning, from virtual reality to artificial intelligence, I’ve pondered the impact upon the nature, types and numbers of jobs that will evolve or must be reimagined.
Training as a job function has seemingly been in the hot seat since the early 2000s. I remember a close friend calling me at the time with concern in his voice, asking, “What are you going to DO?” I asked, “About what?” To which he replied, “About the fact that classroom training is going to die! It’s all going to be conducted over the World Wide Web!”
Well, here we are some 19 years or so later, and I still pay my bills by primarily being in front of audiences teaching and coaching them in learning influence skills to produce better business outcomes. How have I been able to defy my friend’s prediction?
The Boston Globe recently ran an article entitled “Are You Ready for a Robot Boss? Machines Are Learning to Take Over.” It noted that artificial intelligence is “invading the workplace at all levels from factory floors to high-rise office jobs.” Tony Deigh of Jobcase shared his sense that, “I don’t think we’ll get to human-like intelligence, but in a lot of dimensions … we can come pretty close.”
In fact, in a recent study, 64% of respondents indicated they’d trust artificial intelligence more than their manager. So, it would seem it’s not too far-fetched to be a little concerned about humans — including trainers — being edged out of the workplace.
There are, however, capabilities that humans have that are difficult for technology to replace. Perhaps this helps to explain why I’m still working with audiences in 2020 — and why managers have yet to be displaced: It turns out that “workers still want human managers … they just want them to focus on what they do well, such as understanding feelings and providing leadership,” according to the article.
For our work as trainers, e-learning modalities can’t quite replicate the nuances of our coaching and connecting with learners. I find this to be particularly true with any content related to empathy, influence and very often leadership. I have a hard time imagining HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey” or the computer from the “War Games” movie providing helpful feedback to a learner practicing how to delicately yet confidently raise an issue or concern with a co-worker.
So, fortunately for humans, artificial intelligence remains inferior in conveying empathy and in “consciousness,” according to Jaime Rodriguez Ramos, author of Beyond Digital: Six Exponential Revolutions That Will Change Our World. It is kryptonite that has yet to be circumvented.
To keep our edge, we’d be wise to follow the counsel of Barbara Humpton, president and CEO of Siemens: “Two key ingredients for success in our workforce development are curiosity and initiative. I don’t care how old or young the folks are, if they’ve got curiosity and initiative, they’re driving their careers in really exciting ways.”
Brian Lange is with Perim Consulting and serves as lead facilitator for LTEN PrimeTime! For Trainers Core and Masters Workshops. Email Brian at email@example.com.