Do we have the Emotional Intelligence to Work with Artificial Intelligence?

Wall-e pondering the future into the sunset.
Image by: Dominik Scythe @drscythe

THE ROBOTS ARE COMING! Should give up on teaching young people to be lawyers or doctors and train them in robot repair and data analysis instead?

Whilst these might be the most wide eyed of conclusions about people’s role in the workplace, and of course they have a basis in truth, I think there are other implications that really need to be considered in this future world.

With great advances in Neuroscience and understanding our brains and human needs, it is clear that people seek connection with others. Furthermore, not only do people seek connection there is also significant research that people ‘need’ connection with others and that this is as important to our survival as food and water. Additionally, the research into the happiest people has found that it is the quality and quantity of connections with others that leads to greatest wellbeing.

In a world where individuals are working more remotely with reduced opportunities for real connection with others we may start to see an ever increasing and negatively correlated rise in mental health issues. With an ageing population living longer, are they really living a fulfilling and happy life? It certainly raises questions about how to promote well being with advances in technology that can increase loneliness. Whilst technology can increase connection via things like the web, email, facetime, skype etc. it is the physical presence of others that will lead to the greater wellbeing.

If we are to live in a world that relies more on connection via a device then we are going to need to get even better at empathy ie being able to effectively understand others and read them well. With the absence of visual cues and information that you sub consciously glean when you sit opposite someone means that your skills are going to need to be very finely tuned to understand what is being said and importantly not said.

Returning to the headline, the implications of more AI and robotics will be significant from a skills perspective. The most obvious is the need for digital and technological skills to take advantage of this growing area. We already have a shortage of people going into the STEM subjects and developing skills in this area. This will become more pronounced unless we offer high quality careers advice at schools to enable our young people to study in areas where there will be a future demand.

With an ageing workforce that is perhaps less tech savvy than our younger people, there are opportunities for retraining and demystifying some of the developing technology. So often I hear people say that their young child can use their phone/ipad more competently that they themselves can. Organisations can help an older workforce with good quality user friendly tech support and skills development.

It is also interesting when we look at who the Leaders of tomorrow will be – the generation that are called Millennials (those born between 1980- early 2000’s). They are considered to be quite a unique generation, very different from other generations. They are particularly interesting as they have grown up with the internet and advancing technology. Amongst other things this generation seeks purposeful work, they want to feel that their work is worthwhile and growing up in an environment of near or immediate gratification, need regular feedback and encouragement. They have a desire to keep learning and will move on quickly if their expectations are not met. They will appreciate organisations that keep their diversity promises and also match values around corporate social responsibility.

When we consider the millennial generation and also in the context of reducing trust in our Leaders, government and media (see Edelmans Trust barometer showing a trend of reducing and significant drop in trust in 2017) there is an overwhelming need to develop Authentic Leaders . Leaders who are ‘people of the highest integrity, committed to building enduring organisations….who have a deep sense of purpose and are true to their core values who have the courage to build their companies to meet the needs of all their stakeholders , and who recognise the importance of their service to society’ ( Bill George 2016).

Looking forward with the advances in AI and technology, with a millennial generation and a crisis in trust, now more than ever we need people to lead our organisations and countries authentically and ethically.

Did you find this think piece interesting? We’ve got some questions you might find interesting too.

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