I must admit, I am a little torn when it comes to deciding how I feel about yet another Australian Prime Minister not serving out a full term.  Sure it reveals Australia would at least make the finals if there were a Most Dysfunctional Government award, which is certainly saying something given the competition around the globe.  But if it wasn’t happening we wouldn’t have the significant number of very funny meme’s that are circulating the world of social media.  My favourite so far is the suggestion that Rick Astley should be the next Prime Minister given his commitment to never giving up on or letting down people.

Given that we at Optimum Consulting specialise in the field of Human Resources and in light of the attention given to artificial intelligence replacing jobs in the future, I found myself contemplating whether one day AI will replace politicians and run the country.

AI will be really good at big data computer stuff

One of the strengths that computers have over us humans, certainly in recent times, is the capability to store, analyse and filter through significant quantities of data.  Whilst we shouldn’t forget that our human brains can also store a significant quantity of data, and there are some of us who can still make calculations without a calculator, it’s the domain where computers definitely have an edge.  However, even though technically ‘machine learning’ is possible, AI still requires very explicit instructions.

You might remember the hype after various computer’s have conquered humans at various tasks.  In 1997 IBM’s Deep Blue computer beat grand chess master Garry Kasparov.  In 2011 IBM’s Watson beat former winners of Jeopardy (a quiz show in the US).  And most recently Google’s Deep Mind beat 18-time world Go champion (look it up on Google, let’s just say it is hard to play) Lee Sedol in 2015.  The teams who created these AI inspired programs are certainly to be congratulated, but of course each of them is only good for that one thing.  I dare say they would struggle to make a cup of coffee and wouldn’t play golf all that well (computer golf being the exception I dare say).

Humans should be good at the human stuff

If computers will end up being the masters of their domain, surely us humans can choose to own our domain.  Afterall, given we are all human and have the potential for empathy and compassion, it would make sense that we focus on our strengths.   It is the one thing where we at least should have a natural advantage over computers.

This is where conversations about this topic get interesting.  There is already a lot written about the impact that poor managers have on employees.  But will humans really want to be managed in the future by computers?   Will people be happy when their job application doesn’t progress thanks to a decision by a computer algorithm?  Will people warm to the idea of their performance being evaluated by a computer?   My guess is generally not, simply because there will be no opportunity for interaction and explanation and context.  For many, it just won’t seem fair, and the only reliable technology I know of that can discover the all-important context behind anything is a conversation between two human beings.  This is without doubt our major strength, and something the computers are going to struggle to master for some time yet.  Those who understand this and develop the associated skills will be the future winners without a doubt.  Competing with the robots in their domain is going to be a struggle.

So what about the PM’s job?

One would hope that those in the running for Prime Minister would exemplify the highest human values and fill the shoes of role model to the constituents they represent.   If these are indeed important parts of the role, then it is unlikely the PM’s job will be replaced by AI any time soon, at least not in my lifetime (and I am expecting that to be another 50 years!).   When push comes to shove, I think people will want to be led by people who they can at least converse with.  It is up to us to then ensure that people with the right people skills eventually end up in the role.

If however the Prime Minister’s job is about game-playing and trying to outsmart the competition to win by whatever means possible (which on the current evidence it might just be), well, history has already shown us that computers are better at this than us.  In which case our current batch of politicians should perhaps start thinking about their next career moves.

AI is coming for you!

Jason Buchanan – Insights and Innovation

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