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The Future is Scary - Here's Why

Halloween is an ancient festival and supposed to be frightening. But scarier things are coming in the shape of artificial intelligence. Martin Belton tries not to be alarmed.

Halloween is meant to be a bit scary. But fun as well. Some believe the festival originated from ancient Celtic harvest festivals and has pagan roots. Still, others believe that Halloween began solely as a Christian holiday, separate from any ancient rites.

But little on Halloween this year will match the scariness of the article recently featured in the UK national newspaper, the Sunday Times. With dextrous timing, the newspaper published a piece entitled ‘The End of Humanity?’. It pointed out that artificial intelligence is already taking over our jobs, asking if it will free us, enslave us - or exterminate us. After many a scary fact, including the assertion that that autonomous weapons are more dangerous than nuclear weapons, it concludes by suggesting ‘we all better watch out because we don't know what we're playing with when it comes to AI.

Social Unrest

One thing is certain about AI; it is already playing a part in our lives and it will only increase going forward. For organizations, it brings many new opportunities. But that also that our HR function will be wrapped in an array of challenges. Almost every month, new reports predict more unemployment and social unrest as machines replace humans. Our article in the Sunday Times cites a PWC prediction that says that nearly a third of UK jobs could be automated away in just 15 years. A further new report from Mercer revealed that executives believed that AI and automation will replace one in five of an organization’s current jobs. 73% of executives predict significant industry disruption in the next three years. On the plus side, the World Economic Forum believes that there will be 58 million new jobs created by 2022.

Of course, automation has been with us for centuries. But now, more and more jobs are falling under its remit. This is bound to create higher levels of change and uncertainty. And it’s the HR departments that will bear the brunt of this. The challenge is to understand and stay on top of these changes. Not so easy when the expert's advice is so at variance.

Build, buy borrow or bot?

AI has already affected those components needed to build and extend an organization’s talent capabilities. Traditionally you could define them as “build, buy or borrow. Build, as intake inexperience and develop and train it. Buy as in recruit great but expensive talent. Borrow as in using consultants and harvesting their expertise instead. But the new world of work means we must add ‘bot’ to those options as well. We now, increasingly, have the choice of automating tasks instead of using humans.

Support organizations such as the Talent Transformation Guild have been established to support executives to get to grips with these challenges. Challenges that may be hard to imagine, but need to be faced if we are to optimize organizations' workforce. Those challenges will demand a better understanding of the contribution of talent so this is no simple ‘one size fits all solution. Being part of such a support organization gives you access to the latest, fast-developing thinking on these subjects. Not to mention the opportunity to contribute to the development of the solutions themselves. And that would benefit everybody. Then nobody will need to be scared. Except on Halloween of course…