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Honor the Gift and Forget the Servant

I had the genuine privilege of getting together with eleven talent management bad ass mofo’s last week during what was an intimate exercise in predictive reasoning and futuristic postulation – What will the world of work look like in 2035? We locked ourselves in a cabin (literally) for close to two days and tore it apart. It was like being in the middle of an intellectual tsunami (very little of which I actually contributed to). Much more about the exercise, our findings, and how we intend to socialize those with the world is expected to hit the airwaves over the coming weeks. And in the meantime, I hope to tease out  a couple of nuggets I brought back home with me.

We talked a lot about technology and the role it will play in the workplace twenty years out. The easiest premise to latch on to: technology will be more visible in automating much of what we currently relegate to a warm body…with a pulse. It will in turn eliminate the need for an entire layer in the workforce – the layer that pushes buttons, flips switches, keys data, pushes paper, analyzes, calculates, etc. etc. Yes, the air was heavily laden with references to SkyNet. The Human being will be oppressed, no doubt.

But then we said, “hold on just one minute, yo.” There is only so much technology can do. It can process, yes. But can it think…can it possess intelligence? And in answering this question, we came across what I find a fascinating principle. It’s called Mavorek’s Paradox. In his work around  robotics and artificial intelligence in the 80′s, Mavorek discovered that “contrary to traditional assumptions, high-level reasoning requires very little computation, but low-level sensorimotor skills require enormous computational resources.” It turns out that “it is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult level performance on intelligence tests or playing checkers [or Jeopardy], and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a one-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility.” This fascinates me. So basically, the human possesses abilities (otherwise thought of as fundamental) that will be very challenging for technology to match: intuition, instinct, and all that is woven into our DNA after eon’s of evolution cannot be coded or replicated. In your face, SkyNet.

And with this my dear friend Stuart Chittenden, brand consulting extraordinaire, said, “2035: the year when technology allows us to be more human.” And I said, “precisely. In fact, technology will allow us and maybe even force us to be more human.” And he said, “yes.” Then the clouds parted, a heavenly light descended, the angels sang, and a deep mystical voice said, “and it was good.” I love this! It’s quite possible that technology will allow us to get closer and closer to who we really are…who we’ve always been programmed to be. It may allow us to bring more of our whole selves into work every day. It may force us to hone the more precious abilities that bring us innovation and creativity and other mind-blowing advances. It may force us to relate more naturally to one another.

It may even force the employers of this world to finally recognize the power and potential of the human being…

Albert Einstein said, ”The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” I’d say the workplace has historically honored the hell out of that servant. Technology might just reverse that after all.

Image Credit: Shabbir Siraj (via Compfight)

  • Chris Fields

    I was wondering when we’d get another gem from you. Great stuff

  • Jason Lauritsen

    Way to bring it, Charlie. This idea is such a powerful one and yet one that is so hard to really wrap my brain around. Well done.

  • Anonymous

    thanks, jason. it was great spending time with (all of) you last week. an indelible experience! a lot of this stuff is still hard for me to wrap my small brain around – i’m glad we’re trying to do that together!

  • Anonymous

    those gems are few and far between. glad to have you as a faithful reader!

  • Anonymous

    by the way, there is an interesting debate/dialog brewing over on about this. you can check some of the observations here:

  • Ray

    Very nice Charlie. “Come with me if you want to live!”

  • Anonymous

    luv it!

  • Jung Kim

    Charlie, great read! A well respected physicist, Michio Kaku stated “our most advanced robots…have the collective intelligence and wisdom of a cockroach; a mentally challenged cockroach; a lobotomized, mentally challenged cockroach.” Artificial Intelligence attempts to artificially mimic human intelligence. We will need technology to reach more people and do our jobs more efficiently, but the human ability to perceive, understand and adapt to new and trying situations is true intelligence.

  • Anonymous

    hey, cybersleuth, thanks for sharing this quote. one of the best i’ve seen in a while. i’m gonna use it too.

  • Stuart Chittenden

    You’re the smart fish in the bowl, Charlie. I was intrigued by your discussion of Moravec’s Paradox. Who’da thunk it? And the potential for working engagement to elicit more from us as humans… it is an appealing proposition and one that may mark the competitive difference for business.