Many professions are starting to face the threats and opportunities created by machine learning.
For those who view the glass as being half-empty, a very real threat is that jobs which can be automated and performed more efficiently will diminish over time. In some cases, having a task which has transitioned over to machines performed by humans might drive a higher price, albeit for a smaller work force. I read an article recently in Harvard Business Review which indicated that receiving service from another human being will become a costly privilege reserved for those lucky few who can afford such luxuries. All it takes is a visit to your nearby major retailer, bank or airline to experience the progressive prioritization of automation over personal service.
For the optimistic among us, the opportunity presented is that we will be able to spend a much greater percentage of our time focused on high-value work leveraging emotions, insights and creativity which cannot be easily replicated by machines. It might imply reframing what a work week is. Rather than setting a standard number of work hours, the focus might permanently shift to business outcomes, regardless of the effort or duration involved.
So what might this mean for us?
It’s commonly said that 90% of our effort is spent communicating and what makes us succeed is our competency with key soft skills rather than their technical abilities. This might give us the false sense of confidence that our profession will not transform as machine learning evolves.
But is it that unreasonable to believe that a few years from now, we will rely on Computer Assisted Project Management solutions which apply machine learning to thousands of past projects to help guide our planning, issue management, decision making and monitoring efforts? This assistance would enable us to increase the effort spent on managing stakeholder expectations, communicating effectively and sustaining high-performing teams.
A logical milestone to such advancements is found in fictional contexts such as that provided by Star Trek. While there is still the need for leadership provided by biological organisms, that leadership relies on automation to guide much more ambitious exploratory pursuits than could be achieved in their absence.
Infinite diversity in infinite combinations might imply man AND machine.