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Gini Dietrich

How Will You Adapt to Technology Replacing Humans?

By: Gini Dietrich | September 24, 2012 | 
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My entrepreneurial brain is in fast-forward right now, trying to figure out what happens to human beings as computers replace models, actors, writersHR departments, and maybe even teachers.

I realize this happened to manufacturing many years ago and humans have adapted, which is why it makes me think about how we’ll adapt and whether or not there is a business I can start that will help us get there.

A Few Examples

A company here in Chicago, Narrative Science, has created algorithms that tell stories human beings don’t tell. For instance, the play-by-play of Little League games or the financial reporting of the Fortune 500 that Forbes and Fortune don’t report, typically the companies at the bottom of the list.

Augmented reality is creating the opportunity for models to be computer-generated in catalogs and print ads, cutting down on labor costs and time associated with getting the exact, right shot.

Companies, such as Xerox, are leaving call center hiring decisions to software because it uses big data to determine whether or not a person will stay in the job long enough for the company to recoup its training investment…and it’s all based on personality, not skill set.

And now computerized tutors are popping up for math and science students…the type of learning that is easily computerized because it is data-driven.

But what does all of this mean to those of us working in the fields where, until today, have required human interaction, eye contact, and a way with words?

Forward Thinking

Right now, Arment Dietrich is dependent on human interaction and client service. A second business we’re getting ready to launch, Spin Sucks Pro, teaches people about our human, client service-oriented profession via computer-generated content.

While that second business has pretty big projections because it’s easier to scale than a business reliant on people, we don’t know whether or not it’ll succeed. We think it will, based on the trend of computers replacing people, but are humans really ready for that? Will computers ever totally replace humans? Will we still need in-person interaction?

What do you do in your job every day? Do you face the risk of being replaced by an algorithm? How are you preparing for a future where your cognitive skills may no longer be needed?

A version of this first appeared in my weekly Crain’s column.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

101 comments
IAMGeoffKnight
IAMGeoffKnight

@TedRubin @ginidietrich hire a human to figure it out

datamodel
datamodel

@nigelcameron @TedRubin @ginidietrich by getting welfare and unemployment checks.

Tubeblogr
Tubeblogr

It's a bit scary thinking about computers taking over but it's inevitable. 

I think humans will always be useful for artistic input.

TacomaLynette
TacomaLynette

@leaderswest how's the Midwest treating you? Cooler weather yet? Indian summer around here. Amazing!

danperezfilms
danperezfilms

Technology can only make what I do better, it can never create art, so my job (and profession) is safe :)

Tinu
Tinu

There's several ways this could play out, and several of the scenarios depend on where we are as a global community. If we still have this idea of poor people as deadbeats, affluent people will be ruthlessly displaced by robotics as they become part of the disenfranchised. If we have moved far enough towards treating with some base level of dignity, we'll have what I think of as the Star Trek future, where robots like adapts work alongside humans. There might still be a class issue as some jobs will be seen as more robot-suited, but Indont think it will be pronounced. And I think it could generate as many jobs as it displaces but in different fields. For example, there are no more secretary pools and few fax machines. But there are a lot more help desk and call center jobs, plus desktop printers. In the near future or the far, it will be our personalities and how we treat each other that make the biggest difference. As for a business to start - I don't know. I think I'll land on the side of being an investor.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

I have one word for this: WALL-E

 

If you remember the humans in that movie. There you go.

Max_Daddy_DC
Max_Daddy_DC

@geoffliving "When this circuit learns your job, what are you going to do?" --Marshall McLuhan, 1967 #SAHD #DadsTalking @ginidietrich

allenmireles
allenmireles

I remember taking my younger son to se Steven Speilberg's "AI" some years ago and being brought almost to tears by the issues faced in the movie that related to automation vs. humanity. After the movie we waked away and I told myself, uneasily, that it had only been a movie. Uh huh.

 

In the intervening years it has only gotten harder to dismiss the ethical and practical concerns raised by increasing automation. Not gonna get any easier, either.We argue (some of us until we are blue in the face) about the use of automated tools in our digital lives. Yet, with every new expansion, tool and genius idea, those questions are posed again. For all of us. For any of us who are paying attention.

 

I find it unsettling. I rely on and celebrate certain aspects of automation today. Yet I am uneasy with the direction things can go and may go. Again (such is my fate) sitting squarely in the middle. And wondering (and, like many, getting ready to pack a knapsack and head for the hills).

geoffliving
geoffliving

Damn you, Gini!  Now I have to link to this in my post about marketing automation tomorrow. I hate that when that happens. LOL.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

People can't be sized up by beeps, bells and whistles. Those personality tests still miss things and the filters can't catch it all. You can't get around some stuff that comes with being a person that only another person would catch.

AnneReuss
AnneReuss

@CHopeMurray Colin! I have not seen you on the chat circuit. How the heck are you?

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

Alright- comment, edit 27- Marge Piercy's He, She, and It has a lot to say on the subject. The end. 

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

No computer could have the patience that I display on a daily basis... Oh wait, they're emotionless, so they would have even more patience than me. For now, I can only hope :) But I like the general direction that you are headed. Once my kids' generation gets put into positions of power, look out, we'll see things we never dreamt of!

CHopeMurray
CHopeMurray

At the end of the day any algorithm is following a script, do this to x, that to y and then do it z times over, with innumerable variations.  Scripts are useful and can relieve humans from drudgery and toil, and we have increasingly used them over the years.  We will, of course, continue to do so for the foreseeable future, improving them where and when we can for greater relief and more efficient use of resources.  In general it is a good thing if we can accurately and effectively replace human effort with algorithms because that task, whatever it is, can only be repetitive and unlikely to change, 

 

However life is never static and we have to deal with entropy, the force that demands change and reaction.  And yes there are algorithms that do this too, as the investment world knows only too well.  This is the grey area and one that demands vigilant supervision, as relinquishing authorship of new algorithms and scripts to cyber-control can have the opposite of the intended effect, burdening humankind instead of assisting it.  That doesn't mean don't go there, it just suggests that when we take that path we have the knowledge and available resources to prevent and recover from any mishaps on the way.

Carmelo
Carmelo

What are you trying to do to me, Gini? Just when I thought I had a handle on myself you shoved a robot in front of me ... with his silicon tongue wagging in my face. Meanie!

 

You know, we have no idea, really, how we'll adapt. But adaptation is our strength as a species. We'll do whatever it takes whenever the necessity arises. It's good and fun to speculate but we really don't know what's around the corner and what ideas we'll come up with in those moments. I just know we always have and if we ever stop, well ... we won't.

 

After all, we're the ones creating those robots, aren't we? I think we can keep up. ;-)

leaderswest
leaderswest

@TacomaLynette Sadly, it is warmer in W. Washington than here. My love for Cincinnati is quickly changing from dating love to married love.

belllindsay
belllindsay

@kmueller62 HA! Some might argue that, but I appear to be.

CHopeMurray
CHopeMurray

@AnneReuss I need to get back to a few - focused on #SWchat but will return to #bizforum #influencechat #hbrchat soon - how bout you?

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

@ginidietrich, I nominate @CHopeMurray for comment of the week.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @CHopeMurray Great analysis. Thank you. How do you think this will continue to evolve the professions that, right now, require a human being? For instance, do you think a computer could ever comment on blog posts, as you and I are doing now?

TacomaLynette
TacomaLynette

@leaderswest Yeah, it was practically balmy this morning! At least married love is comfortable, and constant!

AnneReuss
AnneReuss

@CHopeMurray I haven't gone to these. I'll have to follow you soon. I'm a regular at #mobilechat and #mediachat and you'd like #awetalk

CHopeMurray
CHopeMurray

 @barrettrossie   Appreciate the thought, but it's the question that deserves the applause.  It really demands us each to think deeply on how we can contribute and participate on levels unreachable by computer algorithms.  Computers can help us understand the cycles of thought and effort that algorithms can replace . They can also direct us to information, and provide synthesis and analysis from which we can generate and evolve new ideas and thoughts.  We cannot sit back idly and allow computer intelligence to be our surrogate, we have to be aware of the risks and the opportunities and constantly raise the bar on our own capabilities.

CHopeMurray
CHopeMurray

 @ginidietrich great question, and I am not sure I have a good answer; for the blog case you suggest we are still a long way from being able to write the algorithms to effectively analyze such content, and more importantly the context in which that content exists.  We have gained some mastery of textual analysis, are beginning to find our feet on sentiment analysis based on  early understanding of semantic (surface meaning) and synaptic (proximity relationship).  Yet we are still unable to accurately or easily break down signs and symbols (semiotics) ideas and thoughts (memetics), all of which are needed for a thorough understanding of any given post. And not to pour too much cold water on the potential, we still have to deal with the Humpty Dumpty syndrome - "I say what I mean and I mean what I say", or to put it another way the challenge of personal language, vocabulary and definition.  And we thought Electronic Data Exchange (EDI) was far from easy, and conceptually it was - now we have millions of parameters to deal with.

 

I am always amazed at how quickly technology can progress, and I suspect many of these requirements will be satisfied to some degree in the next decade, maybe not all but enough of them to satisfy an adequate result.  My fear is that we know more and understand less, we accumulate information, but skimp on knowledge and then eschew wisdom, so the surface analysis is as far as we go.

Carmelo
Carmelo

 @ginidietrich Yeah, I know. The answer is probably in testing and adapting. One thing at a time.

leaderswest
leaderswest

@TacomaLynette hmm, when you frame it like that I may have to reconsider if Cincinnati does that for me? :)

MarketingMusing
MarketingMusing

@CHopeMurray Coolio! #MobileChat / @RedeApp @annereuss

CHopeMurray
CHopeMurray

@MarketingMusing @redeaApp @AnneReuss how could I forego such welcoming invitations? - I'll be there on #mobilechat at 9pm ET Wed

RedeApp
RedeApp

@chopemurray @AnneReuss #mobilechat is, indeed, a must. We look forward to having you! Every Wed, 9pmET. Details: http://t.co/p1l0gCtt

CHopeMurray
CHopeMurray

@AnneReuss Thanks for pointers - just got my 1st Android so #mobilechat seems a must, as does #awetalk - catch up with you at one or t'other

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @CHopeMurray Ohhhh. I like having you around. This is very good information! 

 

I'm with you - the pace at which technology changes is incredible, but I also fear we're missing things such as critical thinking because we're hit with so many messages throughout our days. Technology has made this possible.

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