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Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines Hardcover – May 24, 2016
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A fine call to action in the face of uncertainty. (Financial Times)
The world the authors describe may be unsettling, but it is a world that we would all recognize and will likely live to see. (Wall Street Journal)
This badly needed and well-researched book makes a convincing and inspiring case that the challenges ahead could be a catalyst to help us achieve far more of our potential and, in the process, become much more human. It is a powerful call to action and provides a roadmap that we ignore at our peril. It’s not enough to read this book; we need to act on it, now! (John Hagel, Chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge)
The winners in the analytics revolution won’t simply replace human decision-making, they will augment it. The essential guide to this management revolution is Davenport and Kirby’s remarkable new book. (Erik Brynjolfsson, Professor at MIT and co-author of The Second Machine Age)
Individual knowledge workers, corporate executives, and government leaders all need to read this book. Smart machines are going to change our work and our lives, and the sooner we begin to augment their capabilities, the more successful our economy will be. Davenport and Kirby are correct: people will augment these tools, rather than be automated by them. The sooner you learn about augmentation, the more successful you’ll be in the labor markets of the future. (Manoj Saxena, Former General Manager, IBM Watson)
From the Back Cover
An invigorating, thought-provoking, and positive look at the rise of automation that explores how professionals across industries can find sustainable careers in the near future
Nearly half of all working Americans risk losing their jobs because of technology. It’s not only blue-collar jobs at stake. Millions of educated “knowledge” workers—journalists, lawyers, doctors, marketers—are threatened by accelerating advances in artificial intelligence.
The industrial revolution shifted workers from farms to factories. In the first era of automation, machines relieved humans of manually exhausting work. Today Era Two of automation continues to wash across the entire services-based economy, replacing jobs in agriculture and manufacturing. Now Era Three, the rise of “cognitive computing,” is dawning. Smart computers are demonstrating they are capable of making better decisions than humans. Brilliant technologies can now learn, predict, decide, and even comprehend much faster and more accurately than the human brain, and their progress is accelerating. Where will this leave financial advisors, scientists, teachers, and other professionals?
In Only Humans Need Apply, Thomas H. Davenport and Julia Kirby reframe the conversation about automation, arguing that the future of increased productivity and business success isn’t either human or machine. It’s both. The key is augmentation, utilizing technology to help humans work better, smarter, and faster. Instead of viewing these machines as competitive interlopers, we must see them as partners and collaborators in creative problem solving as we move into the next era. The choice is ours.
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Tom Davenport’s book presents an outstanding, compelling, yet frightening case for everyone to pay more attention to automation and the impact it has on our own jobs. This book is a must read for every one and yes I mean everyone in the workforce in all industries and all roles. This books arms the human reader with various navigation paths to ensure future employment. Davenport explores in a very comprehensive way the future of work. This comprehensive journey reviews many industries and the impact that machines, artificial intelligence and computers have on work and what the future mix of human work versus computer work might be. This book is well grounded in technology history which makes it an interesting read as it is helpful to remember how we got here. The authors makes a compelling, yet sometimes, scary case for computer automation or rather the potential impact of current trends by reviewing the history of automation in each use case they profile. The book offers tips for human work for this new techno dominated workplace. The book focuses heavily on Insurance Underwriting, Stock Trading, Marketing Process Management and more. The book left a number of very provocative questions in my mind such as: 1) What should I do now to retool my skill set now? 2) Which industries, and job categories should I pursue and 3) Can senior management jobs be automated, how Cognitive can automation get? The book speculates what will happen with knowledge workers of which executive management is a part, but the question is does this extend to senior executive management and the board? (The book explores some aspects of this question.)
I love the reference to Steve Job’s and how it wasn’t his ability to code that made him a genius, it was his multi-disciplinary background that allowed him to add a “tweak” to a technical process based on deep knowledge of physics, calligraphy, art and computers. I think the idea of Augmentation also applies to how computers themselves were created by people like Allen Turing (See the film “The Imitation Game”) and others. In Turing’s case what saved millions of lives was someone’s ability to listen and have an intuition(Augmentation) about a very complex in that case mathematical problem involving life and death. It is interesting how these leaders were not only technology savvy but also multi-disciplinary (Creative, intuitive, rationale, mathematical/technical and both left and right brained).
Overall this is book is a must read for everyone in the modern workforce. Davenport and Kirby are subject matter experts on these topics and are extremely credible as evidenced by the research that went into this book. I recommend the reader devour this book and create a career plan to retool skill sets based on the 5 paths identified in the book.
• Stepping Up: Become involved with decision-making that computers can’t make but can assist
• Stepping Aside: Move to non-decision-oriented areas in which computers cannot assist
• Stepping in: Improve computer-generated decisions
• Stepping Narrowly: Be a specialize in work that cannot be automated
• Stepping Forward: Develop new systems and technology that support intelligent decisions and actions
Chapter 3, pages 76-77.
They say that robots are coming to take our jobs. At Autodesk, we are hoping to help create new industries to mitigate the negative effects of the changing work environment. Just as people moved to factories when agricultural tools (e.g., tractors) reduced the need for farm workers, what will people do in the future? So, what does the future of work hold for us? They say robots are coming for us. At Autodesk, we believe that robots are coming for us. Instead of supplanting us, robots and humans will work side by side. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will help us achieve what we want to achieve. We make software that helps work get done because Autodesk makes software for people who make things. If you’re creating a high-performance car, a towering skyscraper, a smartphone, or a great film, your work can be aided by Autodesk applications and services. That's true now and will remain true in the future.
As part of considering Autodesk's role in the future of work, I read Only Humans Need Apply by Thomas H. Davenport and Julia Kirby. Here are some great quotes from the chapters.
"[Knowledge workers are] redefining what it means to be more capable than computers and doubling down on their very human strengths. ...these are not superhumans [but are] normal people who like their work and bring something special to it." [page 8]
Are Computers Coming After Your Job?
"...as they increasingly work with machines, people can step up, step aside, step in, step narrowly, or step forward." [page 31]
Just How Smart Are Smart Machines?
"[Artificial Intelligence systems like] Amelia, Digital Reasoning, and Watson all use similar components, including Language classification, Entity extraction, Relationship extraction, Fact extraction, Relationship graph, and Trade-off analytics... Other systems that handle text take a 'computational linguistics' approach and focus on understanding the underlying grammatical structures of sentences and paragraphs." [page 45]
Don't Automate, Augment
"The reason people hate automation is that it involves someone in a managerial position spotting a shortcoming or limitation in employees, or simply a weakness relative to machine performance, and then punishing them for that weakness. Punishment usually takes the form of workforce reduction or pay reduction in real terms... Augmentation, by contrast, spots the human weakness or limitation and makes it for up — we might say accommodates it — without pain to the worker." [pages 61-62]
"Stepping up is moving up above automated systems to develop more big picture insights and decisions that are too unstructured and sweeping for computers or robots to be able to make." ...People who step up identify and evaluate automation opportunities, determine which tasks will be done by computer/which tasks by humans, and monitor the results of revised work arrangements over time and notice if the world has changed but systems haven't. [pages 76-77,94]
"Stepping aside is moving to a type of non-decision-oriented work that computers aren't good at, such as selling, motivating people, or describing in straightforward terms the decisions that computers have made. ...many stepping aside jobs will center on knowledge work that requires creativity, courage, and conviction. Ethics, emotions, and integrity. Taste, vision, and the ability to inspire." [pages 77,111]
"Stepping in is engaging with the computer system's automated decisions to understand, monitor, and improve them... It's like the people in IT speak blue, the people in business speak red, but we need people who can speak purple." [pages 77,131]
"Stepping narrowly is finding a specialty area within a profession that is so narrow that no one is attempting to automate it and it might never be economical to do so... The Internet has revolutionized the process of publicizing and finding deeper expertise. If you're a jack-of-one-trade, Internet connectivity and usage not only helps you deepen your expertise; it also connects you to customers and markets for it. Google search is God's gift to the narrow-stepper." [pages 77,161]
"Stepping forward is developing new systems and technology that support intelligent decisions and actions in a particular domain... The step-forward category probably won't replace all of the jobs eliminated because of automation, but it will be a fast-growing and important segment of the tech economy... One of the problems with automated systems in the past has been that they have been difficult to understand and modify... Increasingly, users of these systems... won't trust the results if they don't know what went into them." [pages 77,191-192]
How You'll Manage Augmentation
"The process might start as they recognize the self-defeating nature of replacing people with machines. ...opting for an automation-oriented strategy means entering yourself in a race toward the zero-margin reality of commoditized work. If you're using automation to do the same things your people were doing, only faster, chances are good that your competitors will follow suit. And vendors and consultants will be only too happy to provide automated solutions to the entire industry. You will end up offering the same products and services as your competitors Your costs will go down, but so will everybody else's. Sooner or later someone will decide that they can pass some of the savings along to customers, and everyone's profits will fall." [pages 204-205]
Utopia or Dystopia? How Society Must Adapt to Smart Machines
"Pew asked 1,986 experts, including research scientists, business leaders, journalists, and technology developers, whether they believed AI and robotics will have displaced more jobs than they have created by 2025. Respondents were almost evenly split, with the optimists slightly edging out the pessimists, 52 to 48 percent." [page 226]
This book was an easy read. Each chapter is focused on a specific aspect of the future of work and allows the reader to absorb the information one chunk at a time. It offers an optimistic outlook for the future of work that is convincing and inspiring. The future is not paved with unemployed humans who are slaves to their robot overlords but augmented humans who can do more than they ever could before. Autodesk software will be a part of that. We've got your back.