Hybrid skills using augmented intelligence

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Sometimes, we hear alarmist talk about “the robots are taking over”, powered by Artificial Intelligence.

There is an automation revolution coming, but it isn’t something out of science fiction – yet. True artificial intelligence – machines that are not only good at processing instructions but also sentient and self-directing – is a long way out. IBM Watson can play the Jeopardy TV game, or (more relevant here) hone your debating skills but people trained it to fake sentience and talk realistically, and told it to play Jeopardy rather than the stock market – it has no will, no volition. Well, that’s what my Huawei phone has just told me to say.

What we have, for the immediately foreseeable future, is “Augmented Intelligence”, abbreviated AI: human and learning machine working together to deliver a business outcome. One can, according to workers in the field divide the AI domain into 3 areas: 1) Narrow or weak AI, which is basic Machine Learning; 2) General or strong AI, that can emulate human intelligence and/or behaviours, and can earn and apply its intelligence to solve any problem, but directed by people, working together with the machines; 3) Artificial super-intelligence, true sentient machine intelligence. Modern mutable businesses are probably at the very start of Stage 2.

But AI is real and it is on the journey to Stage 3. What this means for FoW, is that you have, roughly, 3 choices (for the medium/long term):

  1. Find something as a career that is going to be hard to automate successfully for a long time. Building surreal Gaudi-style furniture, and the Arts in general, perhaps. Retrain and set up in this field.
  2. Learn what Stage 2 AIs can do easily and what they can’t, and set yourself up as an “AI Wrangler”, orchestrating AIs and people to deliver business outcomes in whatever business sphere you enjoy. This will work for the best, most innovative, most educated people, for a reasonably long time. It may not be an option available to everyone.
  3. Persuade the Government to implement Universal Basic Income and drop out. Cease to define yourself by your work and gain altruistic self-aggrandisement from delivering whatever you enjoy doing and which society tolerates, wants or needs. This will probably be the ultimate AI Stage 3 option, but it isn’t here yet. For most of us.

All three options are viable and respectable choices, from a societal point of view, although it might take the Dept. of Work and Pensions a little while to catch up with option 3. Bloor Research will be looking at all of them, over the rest of this year, but mostly at Option 2. The best guide to what a world of Stage 3 AI will be like, decades out, is probably the Iain M. Banks’ “Culture” series of science fiction stories.

This post is part of our Future of Work series. You can read the previous post, the next post, or find them all in our Future of Work section. If you’d like to discuss how we can help get you prepared for the way work and business is changing, then please contact us.

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