“We are beings of intelligence, creativity, empathy, kindness and community, unlike any machine,” says Kate Darling, a robot ethics researcher at MIT Media Lab.
The rapid growth of artificial intelligence (AI) technology has led to some people fearing that they will soon be replaced by machines in the workplace. However, there are a number of reasons why this fear may be misplaced.
As Kate Darling says, there are many human attributes that are impossible (at least for now) for artificial intelligence to replicate. From a work perspective, powerful abilities like creativity and empathy can be used to motivate teams as well as produce innovative work. But how else does the human touch benefit organisations?
Below, we explore four key qualities that make people an irreplaceable ingredient in business.
1) The crux of creativity
One major ability that AI lacks is creativity and innovation.
While creativity is the bedrock of innovation, and creative thinking encourages thinking outside the box, AI very much thinks inside the box. It puts pieces of a very large puzzle together, but it’s not capable of creating the puzzle pieces. Since AI is essentially regurgitating what it can find online, albeit with amazing speed, it cannot yet come up with creative new ideas. It can make predictions and analyse data found, but true innovative thinking is still a very human quality.
AI cannot adapt to all situations and unforeseen circumstances. Therefore, it can only work based on the information it receives. Human reasoning and the human brain's power to analyse, create, improvise, manoeuvre, and gather information cannot easily be replicated by AI. Have you ever tried asking ChatGPT or Bard for a joke? You’ll soon realise your colleagues can make much better conversationalists than AI.
While this may change in the future through self-learning systems, for now, creativity is intrinsic to the human experience.
2) Emotional intelligence
Another thing that AI cannot replace is emotional intelligence.
AI can be used to recognise emotions based on tone of voice or facial expressions, but it cannot empathise with customers, nor can it understand sub-text, irony or sarcasm. These qualities become very important in jobs like customer service or hospitality, where context is key. Emotional intelligence, by definition, requires self-awareness and social skills, which machines do not have.
Moreover, although we’re all attached to our smartphones, it is unlikely humans will develop strong emotional connections to machines. Soft skills are valuable in the workplace. Humans are taught and required to possess interpersonal skills.
3) Complex decision-making
While AI can analyse data and make predictions, it cannot make complex decisions based on incomplete or ambiguous information. This is because complex decision-making requires a level of judgment and critical thinking unique to humans.
AI can go so far as to provide complex data and market research, but decisions are made based on judgment and experience (and perhaps even gut feeling).
As the ReadingGraphics diagram below shows, humans are able to utilise both system 1 and system 2 thinking - depending on the situation. For example, system 1 thinking is unconscious, emotive, and might be engaged when looking at a billboard and interpreting expressions.
Whereas system 2 is slower to respond but is more engaged with logic and greater complexity, like when you are determining budget vs worth.
Both systems use a degree of emotion, problem-solving, and contextual information to make a decision, and they are often used simultaneously - something that AI is still not fully capable of.
4) The power of human connections
AI cannot replace human connection, which is so important in the workplace. While AI can automate many tasks and make processes more efficient, it cannot replace the personal touch that comes with human interaction. This is because human connection requires empathy, understanding, and a level of personal interaction unique to humans.
As Amelia Dunlop, Chief Experience Officer at Deloitte, references in her article, human connection can be categorised into four fundamental principles:
While AI has the potential to revolutionise many aspects of the workplace, it cannot fully replicate these qualities.
Humans still bring a unique set of skills and abilities to the table that AI cannot replicate. However, as AI continues to develop, it is important to remember that humans and machines can work together to create a more efficient and productive workplace.
So, how is AI changing the world of work?
The integration of AI and chatbots is revolutionising work processes in many industries. While this may lead to job displacement in some areas, it also creates new opportunities for skilled professionals.
Jobs that require repetitive tasks or extensive manual labour, such as assembly, packaging, and quality control, are most likely to be impacted by AI, with higher accuracy and efficiency than humans.
In the customer service industry, chatbots can automate responses to frequently asked questions, freeing up human agents to handle more complex issues. As a result, there may be less demand for customer service representatives, but this can mean more opportunities for new job roles that require more advanced skills, such as data analysis and problem-solving, which requires upskilling workers and making them more employable in the future.
For example, jobs in healthcare, education, and law require a high level of human interaction and decision-making abilities that cannot be replaced by AI or chatbots. Doctors and nurses must possess qualities such as empathy, intuition, and judgment to diagnose and treat patients. Similarly, teachers must have exceptional interpersonal skills and inventiveness to engage and motivate students.
In addition, the use of AI can lead to the creation of new job opportunities. AI-based systems require skilled professionals such as data scientists, software developers, and AI engineers to help develop, maintain and translate these intricate concepts to others.
Should we be worried?
Artificial intelligence applications are becoming more and more popular, and unfortunately, it is true that they will replace many jobs.
The jobs they will replace are often limited to repetitive and what some might dub ‘unskilled’ tasks. But this shift in the workforce landscape will also create new opportunities for people to gain employment elsewhere.
“A report by the World Economic Forum shows that while machines with AI will replace about 85 million jobs in 2025, about 97 million jobs will be made available in the same year thanks to AI. So, the big question is: How can humans work with AI instead of being replaced by it? That should be our focus.”
There are some important limitations to AI, such as its accuracy. AI chatbots are trained on large datasets of text and code, but they do not have the same understanding of the world as humans do. This means that they can often make mistakes. It also lacks common sense.
AI chatbots are not able to reason or contest facts in the same way that humans can. This means that they can sometimes provide inaccurate or misleading information, even if they are not intentionally trying to deceive. Therein lies the answer about AI replacing humans, as humans still must be fact-checking the information given by AI. The statement “AI will not replace you, but the person using AI will” emphasises the importance of human involvement in the use of AI and chatbots
So, if you are worried about AI replacing you at work, think of all the remarkable things that make us humans unique and interesting. Learning how to utilise AI tools and capitalising on the human attributes it isn’t capable of replicating will put you in good stead for the future.
The post-AI work landscape
For organisations, rebuilding the workforce post-AI revolution will consist of five main pillars: retraining, redeployment, more precise hiring, contracting, and, sadly, releasing.
In the next three years, contracting will become particularly essential as companies prepare new skills for a new working world.
Contracting is where companies like Freshminds are in high demand. Companies can acquire the skills they need quickly by using contractors and freelancers. These workers bring in skill and experience, don’t require hand-holding or upskilling, and can help companies quickly ramp up their capacity or fill in gaps in their skill set. Learning to utilise the contingent workforce is going to important for businesses in 2024.
Although the advancements in AI can seem overwhelming to get to grips with, human connections are still at the core of business. Meeting clients for coffee, having in-person meetings, and attending networking events will allow for more meaningful connections to be forged and cannot be replaced by machines. You can’t have an after-work pint with a robot!
Reach out to Freshminds and start a conversation.