The robot renaissance is here. Where there once was a Mona Lisa, there’s now a M3GAN… a newly-released horror comedy film about an AI-programmed doll that becomes too intelligent for humanity’s own good. With the high-score of a 94% on rotten tomatoes, it perfectly captures the zeitgeist of our current cultural attitude toward robots and the future of AI.
If you somehow missed M3GAN, maybe you took note of painted portraits of friends populating on your social media feeds. They didn’t hire artists & pose, sitting still for hours… These images were generated in minutes by DALL-E 2, a free-to-use, open-source image generator. And while this was a more enthusiastically-greeted robot by the general public, it still elicited fear in artists. A fear more pointed, and, debatably, valid, than a fear of a murderous doll: the fear of being replaced.
The concern around AI taking over jobs is sparked by instances, like this one…
Artists, who make their livelihood through their craft, were outraged. This NYT article concludes with this quote:
“This isn’t going to stop,” Mr. Allen said. “Art is dead, dude. It’s over. A.I. won. Humans lost.”
While we admit this robot’s painting is pretty spectacular, At The Culture Fix, we’re more optimistic about AI in the workplace. And we have our reasons.
So let’s start with the question… Are the bots after our jobs?
The answer is yes and no.
According to an article published by The Harvard Business Review,
“The World Economic Forum released a report estimating that by 2025, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in labor division between humans and machines.”
However, the same report also predictsthe creation of new jobs as a result of utilising new technology — anticipating 97 million new positions opening.
But this is nothing new, so don’t be misled by the shock-factor of AI.
In fact, within the 20th century, we’ve seen automation contribute to significant shifts in labour a hundred times over. Think about your cell phone alone - how you likely couldn’t work without it, but its invention implies the obsoletion of telephone operators, landline installers, etc.
According to studies published by NCCI Insights, 47% of total US employment is in occupations at high risk for automation. However, take a look at the chart below, which illustrates how the integration of the gas-powered tractor contributed to a decline in agricultural employment from close to 40% of total employment in 1900 to less than 2% since 2000.
Yet, “all other” fields of employment are steadily inclined.
And not only will new opportunities arise, but potentially more interesting work - especially for entry-level employees. Here’s why:
AI is programmed to conduct high-repetition tasks, typically the responsibility of entry-level employees. However the computer completes these assignments with consistent, high-precision & a much lower margin-of-error than workers are capable of. The new roles will focus on nuanced tasks.
Additionally, HBR predicts that entry-level employees may end up getting paid more. Typically, they have to contend with senior candidates for interesting careers with competitive salaries, but these are roles no one has done before, so no one is “senior.” The ground is levelled & unchartered.
This is excellent for progressing company culture, for these reasons:
The Renaissance of Creativity
What can be automated, will be automated. However, the ingenuity of being human cannot truly be coded. In fact, there’s a large discrepancy between what we believe these computers to be, and what they actually are.
In November of 2022, ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) launched, a chatbot that can be likened to a conversationalist, or more like a calculator of language.
In a Forbes Article about ChatGPT, author David G.W. Birch says: “While ChatGPT’s output is amazing, it is a mistake to think that it is intelligent. Just to be clear: ChatGPT doesn’t know what it is talking about.” Ouch.
You could argue, well, ChatGPT can, “produce text that could have been lifted wholesale from an expensive report from a top team of management consultants,” if you ask it to, “produce a six point plan to bring older workers back into employment post-pandemic.” That seems pretty intelligent..
However, it can only spit out what it’s been fed. It produces credible text, yet cannot distinguish fact from fiction. Candidly written: “They have no insight and they deliver ‘hallucination’ rather than illumination.”
While we think ChatGPT will be an incredible tool, it cannot place the role of the worker. It can synthesize information, but not truth, and you can’t tell when it’s wrong unless you already know the answer.
Maya Angelou once wrote, “Facts obscure the truth.” In a world that is working to sustain human-life, the value of information rests in human discernment, and discernment is a creative act. Which brings us to the thesis of this discussion: Creativity at work is more important than ever.
Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, physician and chief product officer and chief innovation officer at BetterUp, said it best when she spoke to the Harvard Business Review:
“We are seeing the less creative, more rote parts of our job taken over by automation. And that, in our view, is probably a good thing. It means our jobs become more interesting and more human… the challenges we’re facing are very different than in previous eras. They’re novel, it’s not the same thing recurring in different forms… They’re unpredictable, they’re uncertain. And so it requires, inherently, a creative and novel approach because it’s a new problem.”
However, a larger, systemic issue in work culture surfaces. Workers feel intimidated by creativity, and many don’t identify with being “creative.” This is rooted in a lack of self-belief… One of the many reasons fostering a company culture that uplifts its workers is so essential - if the business is hoping to produce quality, novel output.
According to HBR Ideacast, they do this by recognizing and rewarding members of their team expressing innovation & vision. This could be developing a process, a new approach to responding to a customer complaint, sharing new ideas in meetings, and so on.
If you’ve been following us, this might sound familiar to Notice and Nominate! The Culture Fix encourages the use of a Notice and Nominate scheme, a recognition tied directly to your CoreVals™. Whether it’s weekly or monthly, your stakeholders are encouraged to nominate their peers when they catch them committing a CoreVal. This democratises creativity, while also making the efforts palatable by tethering it to the greater mission of the collective. This also helps workers feel connected, which enriches and encourages collaboration.
The HBR Ideacast episode says, “Cultures that are great at creativity and innovation are able to celebrate risk-taking even when the risk ‘fails,’ even when the innovation is not a success. If it arrived in the right ways, with great solid thinking and processes, celebrate it.”
As previously stated - what can be automated will be automated, but this depends on the position & its automotive potential. Below is a list of industry and risk for automation, published by an Oxford study.
You’ll notice that the careers that involve the most soft skills - like personability, employee management, ingenuity, curiosity - also happen to be at the lowest risk for automation. Workers whose technical skills will be automated can still offer huge potential to new positions, especially with their prior experience at the company.
It is in a business’s best interest to instill job security in their employees by demonstrating they value them not only as workers, but also as people. Furthermore, employers should emphasize people have careers in the company, not a job. Leaders can do this by developing plans for role transitions that leverages an employee’s skills, knowledge, and learned behaviors that are unique to the organization.
These shifts can function as a catalyst for company culture progression by demonstrating teamwork and agility.
An interesting example of an excellent leader of collaboration is Rick Rubin, American music producer and co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, who has worked with the likes of Johnny Cash, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, and many more defining artists of the past 4 decades.
Rick Rubin has minimal technical skills, actually. According to an article published by Complex, “he says he ‘barely’ plays instruments and rarely touches a soundboard—but he’s an extremely attentive listener who asks simple but thought-provoking questions that have a way of unlocking new creative possibilities for his collaborators.”
Read more of the article, and you’ll learn that the reason Rick Rubin has been so successful is not because of perfect engineering (like a robot). But because he creates a safe space for shifting direction & knows how to guide people down the windy road of creating. Yes, he’s an artist, but his approach is applicable to business leaders alike.
Overall, we encourage you to view ChatGPT, & other Open AI, as simply a tool. Knowing how to utilize resources well is a form of empowerment. Figure out what these programs know how to do well, and leverage this against your weaknesses or the work you dislike. Do you dread researching and data analytics? How amazing, there’s a bot for that.
Also, your work is not just what you do - it’s how you do it. This is where company culture enters the chat. With open access to the same quality of output, what is going to set your business apart? It’s the people. Place your focus in your people, and you’ll be the Michaelangelo of the Robot Renaissance.
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