As AI and machine learning becomes increasingly sophisticated, many employees could be at risk of losing their job. Improving one’s emotional intelligence, however, could be the solution as it becomes an invaluable attribute in the digital era.
‘The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race…It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete, and would be superseded.’ - Stephen Hawking in an interview with the BBC
When speaking of artificial intelligence (AI), it’s hard not to be apprehensive about the future. Even Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest minds of our generation, expressed concerns about the rise of AI. His worries certainly seem to be coming true.
A study, published by the McKinsey Global Institute last year, claimed that 800 million workers across the world will become unemployed due to robotic automation by 2030. Richer countries, such as Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom, would see the largest changes in their workforce. For example, in the UK alone, it has been estimated that 20% of jobs will be automated by that year.
If history has proved one thing, it demonstrates that resisting technological change is futile. Yet, in the long-run, this societal change should be beneficial for the economies of the world. The only problem is ensuring those who are rendered redundant by machines are protected.
What does the future hold for AI advancements?
While there are many negative – almost apocalyptic – scenarios associated with the rise of artificial intelligence, there are several options which could limit the adverse effects on society. For example, a ‘robot tax’ could slow down the rate of automation or mass retraining schemes could be implemented.
The World Health Organization, for instance, has stated the world will need 12.9 million extra people in the healthcare sector by 2035. Retraining those made redundant by machines could almost certainly make up this shortfall.
One idea, backed by experts such as Richard Branson, is universal basic income. This cash pay-out, given regardless of employment status or background, is to ensure that people are protected from automation – and make sure they have the freedom to try other things apart from work. Potentially, these funds could lead to a new renaissance.
All these theories are dependent on government policy. Yet, robots won’t be coming for jobs which require high emotional intelligence.
Beat the machines: work on your emotional intelligence
At least for the moment, artificial intelligence won’t be able to replicate emotions or thrive in environments which require human interaction. While a computer could theoretically be programmed to understand and react to empathy, using that emotion is a completely different matter.
Therefore, artificial intelligence is unlikely to drastically affect occupations such as the healthcare sector. Not only because a patient will probably prefer talking to a person over a machine but also because the best nurses are sympathetic and caring to those in need of treatment.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a measurement of a person’s ability to control and express their emotions as well as the ability to handle relationships. For recruiters, the days of simply matching up a person to the job which best represents their skill set is over; employers are frequently searching for candidates with a high EQ as well.
We’ve all interacted with those lacking good emotional intelligence. Whether making a complaint to someone ambivalent to your situation or dealing with a colleague obsessed with reports, those who are almost machine-like could be at risk of being replaced by machines themselves.
Human skills, such as persuasion, empathy, social understanding, and problem solving will become essential in an age of artificial intelligence. Being able to recognize and adequately respond to those around you is something that a machine will struggle to do – and make you an invaluable part of a modern workforce.
How can I improve my emotional intelligence?
Unfortunately, improving your emotional intelligence is easier said than done and similar to asking someone to be more empathetic. While not impossible, a fundamental personality change takes time.
The best way to do this is with self-reflection. Examine your interactions with other people and determine if those could be improved. Try role reversal and examine how you would have felt in their shoes. Recognize that every interaction you have brings strengths and weaknesses. By developing these, you could foster your own emotional intelligence.
While training opportunities exist for developing emotional intelligence, honest self-reflection is the key to making improvements. If in charge of a team, request feedback on how your own feelings affect them.
While it is pointless to fight technological change, you can secure your future by doing something which a machine cannot. Focus on being a good team leader, a role model, a listener but, most importantly, be human.
It could be what saves your job.
Author: Tom Chapman is a publishing specialist at CandidSky. A digital agency in Manchester, UK, the firm puts emphasis on hiring those with a high EQ as well as IQ.