And Along Came Watson…

Watson, IBM’s super crazy powerful computer, is trouncing the human competition in the Man-Vs.-Machine match up on Jeopardy. And the human beings he (it) has beaten aren’t anything like you and me. They are super crazy smart and already highly accomplished at the TV game show. Technology has and will continue to advance at a pace heretofore unimaginable. The question as to whether (or when) man would figure out how to create Artificial Intelligence, however, was answered in a significant way by Watson tonight. It’s kind of scary. No, it’s really scary.

If Watson can win at Jeopardy, I’m here to tell you Watson is the new poster child for the HR profession’s biggest competitor. Yep, that’s right. Watson can do our jobs.

Think about it for a moment. Everything that was HR’s essence 20 years ago is now automated or outsourced; everything that was HR’s essence 10 years ago is now a strong candidate for automation or outsourcing; everything that is HR’s essence today will be done by Watson 10 years from now. Ok, maybe not everything…but most of it. Call me a naysayer, a defeatist, a pessimist, a neer-do-well; call me an asshole. I am in fact all of those things. All you HR purists out there who think your organization and its employees can’t live without you will be the first to have Watson sitting in your office. Those of you who sense the vulnerability that is your trusted trade will be the first who actually do something about setting this profession on an entirely – and radically – different trajectory. And that will necessarily involve a reinvention not quite understood by any of us.

Believe me; I’d love for you to prove me wrong. I really would. But mark your calendars and look me up in 10 years. You’ll either be calling from the Starbucks where you’ll be working on your resume or (hopefully) from your big fat corner office in the business to which you became indispensable.

Image Credit: God Discussion

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4 Responses to And Along Came Watson…
  1. Tom Bolt
    February 16, 2011 | 4:37 am

    Prove you wrong? No, but I hope you are wrong. I hate to say it, but if we go down that path it is our own fault. Even the name we call ourselves, “Human Resources” is a predictor of our demise…an impersonal descriptor that like capital resources and natural resources is something to be managed. If we lose our value added to the corporate talent we support, it is over. Only with regenerating the spark of passion for people can we overcome the lethargy found in many HR offices. If I lapse into laziness, somebody please give me a swift kick in the behind!

  2. Jay Kuhns
    February 16, 2011 | 6:13 am

    I’ll take your challenge Charlie. I’m actually hoping Watson does take over all of the mindless transactional tasks that have buried HR for decades. That will free us to be the charismatic, influential leaders that so many organizations desperately need. Developing business plans and “managing” operations has nothing to do with leading people. Sure, they’re important. But unless someone leads the employees, those plans will simply collect dust and fade away.
    Jay Kuhns´s last blog ..Power Post – Sprinting Is GoodI ThinkMy ComLuv Profile

  3. Charlie
    February 16, 2011 | 9:16 am

    Tom – really well said. “[overcoming] the lethargy foudn in many HR offices” is such a challenge. and it’s pretty sad when you stop to look at it. i know you can be counted on for that spark.

    Jay – as always, taking the hard charge. i’m glad – and not surprised – you see this as a challenge. I hope others do too.

  4. Gina
    February 16, 2011 | 10:31 am

    Yep- think of all the things that people once would do, that is now automated. Technology has expanded our lives and created opportunities that we never dreamed would be possible when we were children- but at the same time has take away other jobs that made our economy grow. Have you seen the CarMax commercial? The guy pulls up to the service station to get gas & the crew of workers comes out to check his engine, pump his gas, check his tires & so on & he thinks he’s being attacked because it’s a foreign concept to him. These days I’m lucky if the person behind the counter will even make eye contact with me- let alone engage in a hello while taking my money. And that’s if I even have an opportunity to go inside- since I usually pay the computer at the pump. The commercial is a stark reminder of how the job landscape has changed in the last 50 years.
    Gina´s last blog ..In Defense of Discrimination Part 1My ComLuv Profile

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