Robots Versus Humans – Is There a Better Way?

08/17/2017 01:10 pm ET

There’s a lot of talk across industries today around the potential of robots and artificial intelligence to steal our jobs. As technology becomes continually more advanced, and various tasks get automated, for many professionals the anxiety only builds as we consider what human-held jobs the machine may replace.

One of the questions I myself, as an executive of a sales engagement company that automates the sales process, frequently get asked is, “Aren’t you just replacing salespeople with impersonal robots?”

The short answer? No. The truth is, the majority of the innovation being experienced across markets today is not meant to replace jobs, it’s meant to enhance the human element. By allowing the machine do what it’s currently best at – crunching numbers and handling time intensive, laborious tasks – workers are able to re-focus efforts on higher order problems that not only require the human element but impact the bottom line. In the era of automation, machines will allow workers to improve the quality of work and afford them more time to do their job more efficiently and effectively. Whether it’s focusing on new and improved strategy or having the time to interact with team members or sales prospects, instead of being fearful of what technology will eliminate, we should also examine how technology will enhance our day-to-day workflow.

Automation and dehumanization

Dehumanization is a term thrown around a lot in connection with automation—but the two do not inherently go hand-in-hand. The truth is, automating mundane tasks allows more time for the things that matter. In my line of business, the business of sales, that means sales reps use automation to spend less time researching their prospects or entering data and more time building their relationships.

Take for example setting alerts on your calendar that remind you when a birthday, graduation, or other special occasion is coming up. Life is busier than ever, it’s too easy to forget an important date for even the most well-intentioned person. Automation allows us to focus on the things that matter, in the exact right moment. Just because that happy birthday call was made following an automated prompt doesn’t take away the sentiment or the importance of it to the receiver.

Technology decreasing humanity

While this point may seem obvious, it’s necessary to make: Technology is not inherently good or bad. While it may be easy to step outside and look around at all the passersby heads down over their smartphones, oblivious to each other, the truth is, technology doesn’t have to be this way. It’s not made to be all consuming, that’s the way we as consumers chose to use it. It can just as easily be a tool to bring us together.

Look how easy it is to now keep in touch with friends and relatives in other states or even countries. Remember the days of cautiously time tracking static-ridden long distance phone calls to ensure the bill wasn’t a monstrosity? Today, you can leverage FaceTime, or messaging over Facebook, complete with the most appropriate emoji. Or what about those awkward family reunions when there was nothing in common to talk about with your second cousin? Now, you’ve got the safety of the latest hilarious viral video you’ve both seen. Technology can be the ultimate icebreaker or the ultimate isolation, we as human beings are the ones who decide.

The rise of AI and automation is inevitable, and it should be seen as what it is—a great thing. Instead of focusing on what it is taking away, the focus should be on the plethora of rich and meaningful experiences it’s giving us. In business, this means more time spent focusing on the one thing that can’t be technologically automated—the human element.

In this way, AI and automation are giving us more time to focus on mastering our craft, whatever that may be. At the end of the day, technology is giving us more time to be human, not less.

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