Conflict often sits at the heart of a good story, which frequently magnifies or even creates conflict in the real world.
So often, the news emphasises differences between groups, interests, technologies or ideas in pursuit of a compelling story.
And that’s true of the use of technology in the workplace.
Lots of the discourse around roboadvice, AI and the cloud pits technology against people, with the subtext being that algorithms are set to do people out of their jobs. We’ll call this the ‘tech as a threat to the human adviser’ narrative.
But we think there are a few reasons to be sceptical of this narrative.
Firstly, trust is the foundation of family, community, society, money, the economy and business. While it is true to say that it is a somewhat amorphous concept, it does imply a leap of committing to something before the evidence is there to justify doing so. This needs to be based on empathy and also the sense that there will be social consequences for a breach of trust.
To be clear, this point is not about the capability of the computer – this point would still stand using a hypothetical infinitely capable computer giving advice in an uncertain situation – it is about how people interact with computers.
Would you trust even the most sophisticated computer to advise you on a finely balanced decision? Or would you find a living, breathing human expert to corroborate the advice before you acted?
At the same time, giving genuinely valuable advice demands a deep, empathetic understanding of people’s values, circumstances and goals – what they want to achieve, the resources available to them and reasons for pursuing those aims. It also demands an understanding of what they might be willing to sacrifice along the way to achieving their goals.
Without the lived experience of a human being, it is difficult to understand how computerised advice, at least beyond the basics, could be either meaningful or trustworthy.
But that does not mean tech does not have a role. It does. And we think that role is the complete opposite of the ‘tech as a threat to the human adviser’ narrative.
Instead, we think the role of tech is more likely to be in letting people focus their attention on what they do best – framing problems, making judgments, understanding other people and communicating with them.
It will do this by taking care of the things that people tend not to be very good at. Transposing large amounts of information from one place to another quickly and without error, remembering to take even basic steps every single time and keeping track of complexity are the most obvious examples.
That’s where tech can – and does – make a complementary contribution to human ability. This is the philosophy that underpins MyWorkpapers. It doesn’t drive people out. It lets them do more.
With the right tech, people actually become more valuable to the process.