Earlier this year I reviewed the book Only Humans Nee Apply. The question raised by the book is:
How do we as humans survive in this incredible technology, robotic age that we’re now entering?
One way to look at history is through the “ages” that have been identified.
- The Agricultural Age
- The Industrial Age
- The Information Age
- The Technology Age
The Agriculture Age and Industrial Age are well documented and understood. One important thing to remember is the workers at the center of those ages were essentially the upper-middle class of the day.
The landowner or industry owners were the wealthy of that era, but the agricultural and industrial workers were the upper middle class of the day.
The steam engine brought an end to the industrial age when factory workers began making more money. The industrial age ended in September 2007 when the United Auto Workers wages dropped from $60/hour to $20/hour. Industrial workers could no longer make upper-middle class wages.
But when did the information age end? By some measures, it ended 50 years ago. We just haven’t noticed yet.
The Next Age
The next age has gone by different identifies. The Conceptional Age. The Creative Age.
What we know for sure is that we’re entering a new phase where the technology is finally hitting its stride and doing many things that the information or knowledge workers used to do. Several of our major colleges today employ sports writing “robots”. Plug in the stats from the game and the computer writes the sports story.
- You can become a machine maintenance person, a technician. Machines will always need maintenance and repair.
- You can use the machine to augment what you do. My first example of this was using spreadsheets. Spreadsheets began to augment what I did as an engineer. The problem with allowing machines to augment what you do is they quickly get smart enough to take over what you do.
Davenport says our best chance is to augment what the machines can do. How do we begin to use that technology and apply our creativeness? The one aspect that machines haven’t mastered is being creative (so far). How do we begin to apply creativity in ways that machines would never think doing? This is how humans will survive in the technology age.
But, I believe our greatest augmentation opportunities lie in teams, not technology. We need to think about our teams in a similar way. How do we augment each other? If we don’t, we’re not gaining the incredible power of teams. We’re just a group of individuals working together. But in the same way, we think about augmenting machines, we can augment what each other do. By doing so we’re creating a team that can go far beyond even what the best individual on the team can do.
This idea of augmenting each other means we’re required to know each other not as human doings, not as what we do or how we do it but as human beings.
- Who are we?
- How do we think?
- What are our beliefs and assumptions?
- What are the values that we hold?
- How are we going to face difficulties together?
This is where growth happens when we’re faced with difficult situations. Teams that learn to augment each other, that function better as a team than as a group of individuals. These are the teams that will be extremely successful in the future. In fact, my belief is that if teams fully augment each other as human beings, the machines won’t have a chance.