Over the course of the next 20 years, more will change around the way we do our jobs than has happened in the last 2000.

Futurist Maurice Conti made this bold statement in 2016. And if you look back over the last 20 years, it’s tough to doubt his prediction:

  • In 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue beat the world champion at chess.
  • In 2011, IBM’s Watson beat its human competitors at Jeopardy.
  • In 2016, Google’s DeepMind AlphaGo repeatedly defeated a professional Go player

All of these events are the result of three tiny technical acronyms: AI. ML. DL.

Besides their technical relationship to each other and their massive potential for impact, all three elicit three primary emotions in most humans: excitement, fear and confusion.


Here’s a handy glossary for your repertoire.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is the broad tech category encompassing ML and DL. But it also refers to an intelligent machine programmed to do one thing. Example: Deep Blue was created specifically for chess.

ML (Machine Learning) refers to a machine’s ability to learn a task without being explicitly programmed for that task. ML is the most exciting application of AI. Example: Watson is able to think its way to victory in Jeopardy.

DL (Deep Learning) is a specific ML technique using artificial neural networks to mimic the human brain. DL is at the heart of the most incredible advances in ML (and in turn AI). Example: AlphaGo has the ‘brainpower’ to repeatedly outsmart a human master at the world’s most complex board game.


Today, thanks to algorithms…

  • Computers communicate with humans
  • Cars drive themselves
  • Healthcare data is being optimised in new ways
  • Terrorist suspects are easier to pinpoint

It’s hard to think of an industry, or a job, that AI won’t impact. Which is why every adult who has a job every business leader needs some understanding of what’s evolving.

Cue the fear. But let’s make sure it’s grounded in reality.


Steven McConnell, co-founder of career consultancy Arielle Careers pointed out that while most people worry about robots stealing their jobs, they overlook the fact that artificial intelligence also has the capacity to put them in the running for jobs they’ve always dreamed of.

For McConnell, finding a job in an artificial intelligence-powered world will be as simple as submitting a web search query:

“In 5 years you’ll be able to say to your device “I need a new job”. Within a second you’ll see a list of carefully chosen, highly suitable companies, with links to their current or upcoming vacancies, together with contact details of relevant hiring managers.”

Not so scary after all, eh?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZWBv65-Zn8&w=560&h=315]


To understand which ones, we need to ask ourselves: what do humans bring to the work table, and what do intelligent machines and robots bring?

Maurice Conti (who, by the way, was Creative Director and Head of Innovation at 3D software maker Autodesk for years) offers a powerful point of view.

Conti envisions a promising future where AI / ML / DL augment human potential and creativity.

In fact, using this new “team” structure, Conti has had wild success.

For example, consider the Hack Rod. A collaboration between Autodesk and Hollywood’s brazen media company the Bandito Brothers, it’s the first-ever car created by ML. And here’s the cool part.

The human driver generated the data points (think nervous system) for the machine designing the car.

And while we’re still excited, there’s the 3-D printer robot-constructed pedestrian bridge in Amsterdam, yet another Autodesk partnership; this time with Dutch artist Joris Laarman.

Conti’s optimism about this new brand of corporate team—human, robot and intelligent machine—is more than a tad contagious.

It doesn’t take Watson to realise that his work has elevated human creativity to unsurpassed levels.


Don’t be afraid. Emotional intelligence-driven work will continue to be the realm of humans (that’s you) in in the future.

And creativity, at least mostly, is still unique to humans. But when it comes to data-crunching, pattern-recognition and future-prediction, it’s time for humans to step aside.

Given the new partnership between people and technology, as an employee, it’s time to consider one thing: how can you maximise your uniquely human skills (creativity, empathy, generosity), so that you can add more value than ever?

Before you answer that question, I have news for you.


Deep Knowledge Ventures (DKV), a Hong Kong-based venture capital firm, credits an AI system called Vital for saving them from the throes of bankruptcy.

While DKV is famous for being the first company to appoint AI to its board, managing partner Dmitry Kaminsky said Vital’s role is distinct from the humans’ role.

“We treat it as a member of our board with observer status…we agreed that we would not make positive investment decisions without corroboration by Vital.”

According to Kaminsky, other VC firms before them have used AI to make strategic leadership decisions. They’ve just kept it on the down low.

Okay, so maybe you’re not ready to invite a robot into your cubicle.

But you can (and should) start moving in the direction of being robot-proof. By being super-human.


Intelligent companies…without any humans? Been there, done that.

A company called The DAO became the first. Launched in April 2016 through a crowdfunding initiative as an investment vehicle, it was hacked a few weeks after launch.

But it goes to show, if you can imagine it, it’s likely already been attempted.

As for the future, Conti likens the evolution of AI to a comparison between Spock and Kirk. Soon, intelligent machines will incorporate the ideal blend of logic and emotion.

Will it be a good thing, or a bad thing? Well, in the words of Kirk, sometimes a feeling is all we humans have to go on.

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