A.I.: Is It A Terrifying Competitor Or A Terrific Tool?

It's actually up to you.

I posted this on twitter today.

In case you have trouble reading the tweet, here’s a summary:

Read this sentence: You are competing with A.I.

There are actually two ways to interpret the words in this sentence.

Option 1: You are competing against A.I.
Option 2: You are competing using A.I.

Though not everyone will say it out loud, they fall into Option 1 and are worried about A.I. and how it’s going to impact them. It’s a reasonable worry. Reasonable — but often wrong.

Let’s just call-out the most common fear that people have.

A.I. is going to replace me.”

The reason this fear is so common is that there is some truth to it — and also because you hear this all the time from those in A.I. circles.

Here’s my quick take: In the short-to-mid term, A.I. doesn’t automate people, it automates tasks. 

If your job almost entirely revolves around one or more relatively straight-forward tasks that require little creativity, little empathy and little thought, then you are likely more at risk. Those kinds of tasks will eventually be taken over by A.I. because they don’t need a human to do them.

The more rote the task, the higher the risk of replacement by A.I.

On the other hand, if your job is different day-to-day. You’re solving problems. You’re interacting with a group of humans, all with their individual human quirks. You come up with creative ways to make things better over time. Then, you’re at much lower risk. Sure, you have to do some rote tasks, but they’re a means to an end — not the end itself. If that’s the case, A.I. will actually help you. It’s a tool that will help amplify the value you create because it gives you more time to do the remarkable work you do by automating away the rote.

So, here’s my advice.

Take an honest look at your role. What you actually do. Figure out what’s rote, and what’s remarkable. Lean in to the remarkable and start learning more about A.I. and how you can use it to reduce the rote.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you work in sales. If the main part of the job is to take a list of people and phone numbers, call them, hope to get a connection, and then say roughly the same words, in the same order, in a friendly, human-sounding voice, you’re at risk. Not today, not tomorrow — but eventually. Because A.I. can do those things better. It can sound friendly — and the tech is good enough that it sounds as human as humans do. If part of your job is dealing with rejection (people hanging up the phone — or giving you a piece of their mind for interrupting their lives), then A.I. is definitely better at that. It’s not phased by rejection at all. It has no feelings.

Also, don’t try to “win” by knowing more than the A.I. That’s a losing battle. A.I. is going to know more. More about the world. More about your industry. More about this customer than you do. No, you don’t win by knowing more. You win by caring more. Caring more about understanding the challenges and issues, dreams and aspirations of the person you are trying to connect to.

You win by actually making a connection with another human.

Because, as it turns out, humans like forming connection with other humans. They’re more interested in other humans.

Here’s another thing that should give you hope: Many years ago, computers started beating even the best humans at chess. And today, even an average chess algorithm can defeat most players. But, when it comes to watching tournaments online, we don’t gravitate towards watching computers play each other — even though the games are arguably better. It’s because we don’t care about the computers. Not really. We care as much about the players as we do the game. The players have a personality. They have a story.

So, my advice is, don’t try win by becoming more like A.I. It’s not about cranking out more hours and doing more work. It’s about reducing the time on rote work.

You win by using A.I. as tool so that you can be more human.