Today, I interviewed the robot trying to take my job.
That’s not just a clickbait headline — I really did. Well, technically I had an “introductory call” with the robot’s human handler/sales team.
And you know what? I’m thoroughly convinced my job is safe. But before I dive into the function of the robot technology maybe replacing me, here’s a little context.
“Hey Google — what is artificial intelligence, and should I be worried?”
As I’m sure you’re aware, artificial intelligence is a hot ‘n happenin’ field of robotics that’s sparked a lot of recent conversations — and fears — around the globe.
Think Alexa. Think Google Assistant.
AI is on all the “top trends of 2019” prediction lists, and has people dreaming up all kinds of wild solutions to problems ranging from customer service to warfare. And it’s been especially pertinent to my little marketing world.
In marketing, AI is becoming a much more common solution to things like customer service, email marketing and social media. And a lot of it is smart — why pay a human to sit and answer every inquiry that’s entered into a chatbox when you could have a bot that can compare the question to the information available in its resources and supply an answer? Fast for the customer. Efficient and inexpensive for the company. Everybody wins, right? (Although, I feel like there is even room for an argument here about chatbots handling personal information ...)
But when it comes to simplifying tedious processes to save time and obliterating the need for humans to do work, where is the line?
Granted, creating a chatbot to answer frequently asked questions vs. attempting to build a physical construction with intelligence and aptitude equal to a human’s = two VERY different things.
Today, there are AI machines that can replicate or emulate certain elements of intellectual ability, but it’s nowhere near level to the total human thought process. And that’s not even tapping into the current limitations of robotic tactile perception. (Put plainly, human skin is freaking NUTS. No robot has yet to feel sparks fly when two hands accidentally brush while reaching for the same sugar packet at the cafe. That right still exclusively belongs to the characters in a Nicholas Sparks novels us.)
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I’m sure, as the years go on, more and more sophisticated (and scary) solutions will come to fruition; we’re just not there yet.
Don’t think I’m questioning the possibility of this. Or even the likelihood.
I think that as long as humans are still kickin’, they’ll also be trying to create a better version of a human.
Because dang, we just don’t know when to quit.
I’ve seen Westworld. I know things.
Well, why is everyone else freaking out about AI?
Because fear-mongering gets clicks. Peep the title of this post. It’s dramatic. It’s talking about the unknown. It’s playing on a fear you hope doesn’t relate to you, but deep down know it will.
People will always fear the unknown.
Some people are genuinely convinced that the rise of AI and robotic capability, humans will be put out of work. To me and Jeff Bezos*, a much more viable concern is the possibility of autonomous weapons. That’s scary.
But me not having the upper hand in a job that requires human interaction? I’m not worried.
*Number 2 on my list of “People You Should Be Scared Of, And Probably Aren’t,” right after Elon Musk.
Mass joblessness due to the rise of AI is so often cited as a concern, that researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Utrecht University School of Economics recently performed a study on the topic: Does Productivity Growth Threaten Employment?
Though I didn’t read every word because I have a life, I flipped through and think this study offers a nice balance to the hysteria on the subject that’s often in the media.
Blah blah blah, math math math, BOOM there it is:
The short sell:
Yes, in the past, new technology has caused job loss. BUT, these very same technologies have also created productivity increases that have actually generated MORE jobs than were initially lost.
So yes, there are a LOT of jobs that are highly automatable, and many of them would impact factory workers and people with lower levels of income. But, this study found that every 10 percent gain in productivity resulted in a two percent gain in employment over the course of four years. There are other factors to consider, such as population growth, but still — the line is on the incline.
Why shouldn’t I be worried about robots replacing me at work?
Humans aren’t this weak, brainless group of withering daisy idiots.
(Except for you, boy named Sean C. who once made me feel incredibly embarrassed at a 4th grade birthday party. You are a withering daisy idiot, and I only wish I’d told you to your face.)
I had this introduction/sales call with an AI marketing platform that solves for a variety of marketing needs, including coming up with marketing copy and testing subject lines, among other things.
It was so interesting! I was impressed. I was weirded out.
And not once — not even for a second — did I fear that I was being put out of a job.
For starters, the product costs $7,000 per algorithm
And many brands I recognized (and you would too) are already doing this, and the group has a handful of case studies showing shrinking costs per lead. I don’t doubt that they have a cool thing going.
It saves time and I can see how that would be so valuable to an in-house marketing director wearing 19 hats. It can translate to various languages and make it sound not only correct, but natural to the language.
So I must be worried that my role at my company will become obsolete eventually, right?
In my opinion, a company’s marketing copy (AKA words convincing you to buy something) would have to be really bad in the first place to see the kind of jumps in results that their demo examples do.
But OK, say that everyone could afford that technology and I really didn’t need to be doing that part of my job anymore.
Great. I can move on to more conceptual work. I’d have more time to craft brilliant ideas, strategize new ways to make our clients money, and effectively pinpoint and articulate emotions for the sake of selling services that people need.
Even if I was fired tomorrow, I believe I could find a way to make money in a way that a robot never, ever will replace. I take feelings and turn them into words, and then use those words to convince people of something — that they should get a flu shot, visit their dentist regularly, upgrade their internet speeds, whatever.
There will always be a market for empathy.
Humans have emotion. It’s kind of our thing.
Robots don’t. It’s kind of their thing.
I was so impressed with the technology of the AI platform I chatted with. It’s incredible that HUMANS have found a way to solve this pain point. But I’m not going to waste time worrying that my skillset will become obsolete.
When it all boils down, the threat to my job is fake.
It’s artificial. Literally. It’s in the name. Artificial intelligence.
Instead, I can do my part to stay relevant by doing my job to the best of my ability, constantly trying to learn, developing new skills, sitting through lunch and learns, reading, reading and also reading.
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Have a little imagination.
Farmers in the 1860s probably thought that making money through cyberspace by telling people where you bought your sweater was a little off-putting, too.
We adapt. We always do.
Life finds a way.
But you know what? I’ll keep a cushy savings account juuuuust in case.
What do you think? Is AI a threat in your industry? Is all of this silly? Should I probably be concerned that this is my second blog post in a row where I’ve warned you about Elon Musk? Give me your thoughts in the comments below!