If you want to beat the bots, be more human – Project Management Institute

George Asamani, Managing Director, Project Management Institute, Sub Saharan Africa

Hollywood has mostly portrayed artificial intelligence as evil. Barring some cutesy movies like Wall-E, robots in the reel world are relegated to playing the antagonist out to wreak havoc against humans. These tropes are evident in films like Terminator, 2001-A Space Odyssey, Ex Machina etc.

While these movies give us a glimpse of what to expect from sentient AI, the plots are largely inspired by Mark Twain’s words, “don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.” But we could be closer than you think.

Blake Lemoine, a software engineer with Google, claimed last year that Google had inadvertently created a sentient AI chatbot system called Language Model for Dialogue Applications. He claimed in media interviews that he found some proof of sentience. He was let go and claims were quickly refuted.

There’s still a long way to go before robots match fundamental human skills. That notwithstanding, in the past decade, AI and robots have waded their way into our homes and workplaces, and invaded factories. Automation is predicted to displace 20 million manufacturing jobs by 2030. Globally, as of 2020, there were some 3 million operating industrial robots – a 10percent increase from 2019.

The technological advancement adds more pressure to an already saturated job market. According to Trading Economics, Ghana’s unemployment rate remained unchanged in 2020 through to 2021 at 4.70 percent.

Data from the Institute of Statistics, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana, has revealed that only 10 per cent of graduates find jobs after their first year of completing school. While fewer jobs are being created annually, the soft skill deficiency in many graduates is holding them back. More than once the job market has complained of half-baked graduates thus opting for technology as a place filler.

So where are the safe places in Africa? In Kenya for example, having a college degree can protect you from job loss by at least 21percent. According to Zipia, estimates show that at least 50percent of the work done by those without bachelor’s degrees could be automated with existing technologies.

“Whether you are an architect, project manager, or software developer, your job is also to influence your stakeholders and delight your customer. Hybrid and WFH mandates demand collaborative work across other functional areas. These and other soft skills like communication, emotional intelligence, and empathy are abilities that AI cannot replicate and ones we must sharpen, “says George Asamani, MD, Sub Saharan Africa, PMI.

“Hence, we call them power skills. As humans, we are (still) better than computers at many of these creative, relationship-based activities.”

Soft skills indicate future job performance more than hard technical skills. They bring a person’s instincts and passion towards work and people to the surface. A study by Deloitte states that soft skill-intensive jobs will grow 2.5X faster than other jobs, and by 2030 soft skills jobs will make up 63percent of all jobs.

Asamani adds, “There is a gap between business demand for soft skills and their presence in the workforce.”

An overwhelming majority (92percent) of talent professionals and hiring managers surveyed by LinkedIn said that soft skills matter as much or more in recruitment than hard skills. Just under 90percent said that bad hires were typically the ones that needed more soft skills. The research also points out that while hiring managers have specific demands for hard skills and experience, soft skills are the critical drivers for success.

As Elon Musk and others move the needle on technological singularity, that ordinary humans will someday be overtaken by AI or cognitively enhanced biological intelligence, it has become more critical than ever to build soft skills.

As AI and automation continue to advance, tasks that humans perform today will be done by machines. This means that the jobs available to humans in the future will require creativity, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence, which are difficult to automate.

Inversely, as AI finds more application in other industries and increasingly gets complex, there will be a demand for people who can work with and manage these systems, and soft skills like communication, teamwork, and leadership will become crucial.”

As AI and automation continue to displace jobs, PMI recommends that people master skills in Ways of Working, Power Skills, and Business Acumen to prepare for the future. “To beat the bots, it’s time for us to revisit our humanness,” concludes Asamani.

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