AI and its implications seem to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind these days. What can artificial intelligence do in your field or in your organization? Will your work be easier, more interesting or just plain redundant? What are the options for humans in a world run by computers who never tire, show no emotions, and are making all decisions based on pre-set criteria which they don’t challenge themselves?
Be not afraid, be very afraid. Because the AI-robots may be coming, but they are already here amongst us and within us. The robotization of our work places is already happening, and if you look around you in the office, you may register a couple who are on this track already. The modern work place with its endless buzz, long days, tiresome meetings without purpose and lack of actual presence is de-humanizing us and turning us into robots.
What are the characteristics of these work-place robots (with a human host)? We see first of all:
No breaks what-so-ever during the day. Lunch eaten in 15 min or less, if they have any. They just keep going at a scarily uniform pace from meeting to meeting or tap rhythmically at their keyboards.
Bodily functions of thirst, bio-breaks, hunger, tiredness and sickness are ignored.
Small talk is limited to safe subjects with little emotional impact. The weather, upcoming holidays, sports activities and the occasional weekend anecdote. Never touch upon “real” subjects like hope, fear, dreams, that ongoing family conflict or a close relative facing serious illness. Never.
Decisions from above are never questioned or challenged but executed with mind-numbing efficiency.
Digital tools are on 24-7. If given the opportunity emails will be answered in meetings, even though people may have flown in from far away to participate. No problem, if they are on the robot-track too, because they will answer emails as well.
No sign of weakness, no sharing of mistakes. They show you nothing but perfection.
Almost physical integration with a smartphone. No second is wasted. At the bus stop, in the train, on the street, in a meeting where someone is 2 min late… at every opportunity the phone is picked up and chosen over any potential human interaction in that situation. Small talk replaced with a quick FB check, enjoying a blue sky replaced with a quick email reply.
By now you probably know who we are referring to here, and perhaps you have even started to show a few signs of early robotization yourself. But don’t despair. You always have the choice to call it out and activate/ re-activate the human host. Remind people, incl. yourself, of bodily functions and their needs, and insist on taking biobreaks. Become rigid about eating lunch and taking the break that goes with it. Stay present when you are in a room, knowing that you can only do one, and one thing only, at a time. Put the phone away every now and then to appreciate the world and the people around you. And then you can help reverse the trend.
The robots are not coming. We are already becoming them.