Machines or humans? Your choice.

Image result for robot waiterAre you a person who likes to shop online or perhaps go in a store and never talk to anyone? Many people express these sentiments. They just want to get what they want without dealing with someone trying to sell them something or giving them what they think will be bad information. I get it. I am often one of those people too.  And, if you are like this, whether a lot or a little, you probably look forward to the day when more artificial intelligence (AI) takes things over so you never have to deal with the pesky detail of people.

I know a lot of you are sitting back right now relishing this thought. Imagine walking into a store, picking out that pair of pants, walking out of the store with a sensor reading codes on your purchase and deducting the dollars from your bank account having read a chip in your wallet. No muss, no fuss, no dreaded interaction with indifferent service people, time saved, you got what you wanted without any complications or questions.

That all sounds nice to many people. And it makes sense since so many of our purchasing experiences are fraught with what seem like needless complications and unsatisfactory human interactions. Yet, as most of us have experienced, relying on machines can have its own set of complications and dissatisfactions.

Think of all of those times you’ve called a business to get help with something and ended in “dial 1-2-3-4” hell and all you want is to find a way to talk to a breathing human who can answer your simple questions or lead you easily to the thing you want. How about all of the times when a question you have isn’t in the menu of possible options or your question is complicated and multi-layered, you know, if this then that? Will AI work to make this better or worse?

While I think AI has its potential benefits, I do not think it will ever replace humans because humans will always need other humans to deal with all of the gray area that we live and breathe daily. Humans are not black and white, we’re not simply zeroes and ones, we change our minds, we question, we’re complex and unpredictable. I have never seen any machine be able to accurately predict human behavior, no, not even Amazon. I have often got recommendations from Amazon that are way off the mark for me.

Machines can be more precise, they can do things faster and calculate data in a flash, but there’s one thing they can’t do, they can’t feel. A machine cannot know what it is to lose a loved one, to fall in love, to be proud of accomplishments, to take joy in the achievements of children, no, a machine lacks that capacity and that capacity is critical because we humans live in the world of emotion and feeling every day, every hour, every minute. It’s what makes us difficult at times and joyous at others and it takes a human touch to feel with us and understand what we need in the moment. That’s why we breathe that sigh of relief when we get a person on the other end of the phone after we’ve dialed department after department to no avail. We just want someone to understand our plight and help us. No machine can do that because they don’t live, die, cry, and smile with us.

Business needs to take heed and remember this fact. Humans need humans, we feel and we need others to feel with us. We’re social creatures. If you’re a business leader and you’re contemplating or even relishing the idea of getting rid of people in favor of machines, think again. In the long term, people will need people, good people, so start creating the place where good people can thrive, you’re going to need them more than ever.

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10 thoughts on “Machines or humans? Your choice.

    • Thanks for sharing, Ross. Very thought provoking. It does suggest that we can empathize with robots, but is it possible for them to genuinely reciprocate? And will they be able to fully anticipate and adapt to the shifting sands of human emotion. We humans have a tough enough time with this so I am dubious if any programming will be able to cope.

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