The robots are coming! ..to make you more human.
Co-written with Abhinav Agrawal, Co-founder & CEO, Rocket
An article published by Hackernoon months ago was able to bring some sense to the hype about AI replacing all of our jobs. The article made the compelling argument that technological advances throughout the course of history have never resulted in massive unemployment rates. From the Industrial Revolution, to the Internet, technology actually has been responsible for creating new and better jobs for us. From steam machines liberating millions of children from working in the garment industry, to the service economy bringing about more humane jobs, innovation has been on the side of humanity all along. The article claims that the present AI revolution is not an exception.
When it comes to tech that can – literally – do work, the Hackernoon article, puts it brilliantly:
“Humans created more jobs and reinvented themselves with the help of new technologies. The advent of the Internet and the knowledge economy didn’t permanently put us out of work, either. Instead, each of these innovations made us more productive with elimination of very few job categories. Technology and innovation make our lives easier and help us do our jobs better. That’s what AI has in store for us. It makes us more efficient — in effect, superhuman.”
The article presents several reasons why AI will become a collaborator, making people more productive, and happier, on their jobs. Take for example how AI can do the repetitive tasks most people don’t like doing at work, or how AI can help sales people to be more efficient so they can focus on selling, not on prospecting. Or, how AI can invest for you, and take emotion out of your financial decisions. And this is already happening: sales people and bankers have already lost their jobs. AI has been taking jobs without us even knowing, and ironically, it has been happening at the time in which unemployment in the US has been at historically low levels.
Getting AI right
It is easy to get lost in the AI-hype and believe the doomsday sound bites that multiplied within social media. But perspective on how startups are making AI work for people, and not against or instead of them, abound. In this article, Abhinav Agrawal, Co-founder & CEO of one of them – Rocket – answers three questions I pose in order to understand how they apply AI to make us both superhuman and more human at work.
How are people working better when they apply your AI in their jobs?
Machines, AI, ML or whatever we call it, make humans work better. Our experience shows that employee happiness for our clients has increased as we help them automate more and more of the boring parts of the workday for HR people. For example, when skills, preferences and behavior are used by our machine learning algorithms to select the candidates that best match job descriptions, the amount of time recruiters spend actually meeting with candidates went up from about 40% of their day to 75%. This is more quality time for both recruiters and candidates to get to know each other better. AI is likely to do more of this for swathes of corporate roles, boosting employee happiness and productivity if managed well versus taking jobs away.
Is AI the answer to everything related to productivity in the workplace?
AI will never solve every unproductive little bit of work – human empathy matters. For example, in the same line as before, having humans rejecting candidates directly because they have more time to do so by using AI for other tasks, beats having an automated email – which happens now without AI – and turns them from someone who can become bitter and annoyed to someone who actually appreciates the company and the time invested in exploring if they were a match. We have even seen some clients hire candidates they rejected before, as the experience was positive for both candidates and recruiters, and time spent communicating one-on-one helped both uncover potential. This happened, for example, when a real human discovered insights that didn’t appear on a profile during a call with one recruiter. The candidate came to the realization that she wanted to spend time making society better and change careers and work on healthcare, versus just continuing a career in another optimization company. Nothing in the candidate’s profile suggested this. It was uncovered by a person who can relate and probe because AI has given them time, and the data insights, to do so.
Can AI be unbiased when it comes to job candidates?
An algorithm is as biased as the data sets, the algorithms, and the programmers who wrote it are. Machines can go haywire if humans do not intervene, no matter if you refer to it by the fancy term of Artificial Intelligence. We are entering a golden age, where algorithms can assist in hiring, yet, potential bias and unsubstantiated correlations can seep in. Thankfully, there is plenty of awareness on this topic. The prevention of bias requires constant vigilance to guard against its many forms, and accurate labeled test data to ensure algorithms aren’t incorporating human biases. On the flip side, data can also be a great disinfectant – for example, one of our clients recently realized their hiring biases when shown data from us regarding their phone screen acceptance rate by gender. In this instance, rather than doing the work for you, AI helps you become aware, through connecting complex data and showing you the result in an intuitive manner, of your own biases. This is what I call teamwork, and is what startups like us strive to perfect.
Will AI eventually replace all of us? We seriously doubt it. There has been no historical precedent for any technology, no matter how transformative, creating massive unemployment. Any evidence suggests the opposite. As the Hackernoon article concludes, “Artificial intelligence may eliminate some jobs but it will also create new ones, and work that is done by humans will be more thoughtful, rewarding and fulfilling. AI will make us beyond human — in effect, superhuman. We’ll march on and evolve because that’s what we do. And we’re good at it.”
Making us superhuman is what technology has been doing for us for thousands of years. From enabling us to cure diseases, to produce better goods, to fly, to see what’s going on on the other side of Earth and beyond, every new innovation increases our superpowers. The time for AI to do exactly that is here. Embrace it as your friend.
Photo courtesy of Christopher Michel