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Camping can be a lot of fun: sleeping under canvas, getting back in touch with nature, building fires to keep us warm, even hunting, foraging and cooking our own food. Compared to paying rent and municipal tax, it’s pretty cheap too.
But there’s a reason why camping is a hobby for most of us and not an everyday lifestyle: we’ve discovered better ways of living. It’s the same with activities like hiking, knitting, or riding - fun for a weekend, perhaps, but not a life we’d wish to return to permanently.
There’s a reason why camping is a hobby for most of us and not an everyday lifestyle: we’ve discovered better ways of living.
So integral were technological milestones like the steam engine, automobile and personal computer been to our lives that it’s easy to forget how much resistance people initially put towards them. Each successive innovation came accompanied by dire warnings: “no-one will be able to breathe at the dizzying speed of a train”, “cars will never catch on; we’ll need to rebuild whole cities to make roads”; “the personal computer will fall flat on its face in business”.
Today, the fear is that the automation of tasks and artificial intelligence (AI) will take the human element out of work and make jobs redundant. It’s natural to be nervous about the unknown – it’s how our brains are hardwired – but in the case of AI and advanced analytics sticking your head in the sand will only delay adoption and leave more intrepid businesses to take advantage of the benefits it can deliver.
It’s worth remembering that innovation is a continuous process that’s about exploiting the possibilities of a novel concept. Take the automobile, for example. On its maiden trip in 1884, Daimler’s first car took almost an hour to travel 11 km on a wide open road, but building on that foundation we now have driverless trucks making their maiden trips along busy motorways at 140 km/hr.
“In the case of AI and advanced analytics sticking your head in the sand will only delay adoption and leave more intrepid businesses to take advantage of the benefits it can deliver.”
We’re still in the early days of AI and smart devices, but chatbots are already being embraced by businesses everywhere and the speed of software innovation orders of magnitude faster than automotive innovation. These technologies will only gain traction as they help companies discover new ways to work faster and more efficiently, and help customers interact with them in a more fluid way.
For the HR department, the challenge will be to ensure employees develop the necessary skills to make the most of new tools and processes. This has always been the case. With the adoption of PCs in the workplace, computer literacy became crucial for every office employee. In recent years, the rise of cloud computing and analytics has made experts who can spot correlations and causalities in their data indispensable.
The rise of cloud computing and analytics has made experts who can spot correlations and causalities in their data indispensable.
The evolution of AI and automation will also demand new skillsets, and as the ambassadors for employee development HR leaders will need to work more closely with each line of business to build these competencies across the business.
The future of any technological advance will be as benign as we allow it to be. Change can be scary, and as software becomes more powerful the implications each successive advance become more intimidating, but as in the past it’s up to people to harness the good, overcome the bad, and adapt to a smarter way of interacting with the world.
Which reminds me: “Alexa, please order that propane cooker for our camping holiday next week.”