“Artificial intelligence isn’t going to take our jobs—it is going to empower us to perform at a higher level than ever before. Technology, in combination with human imagination, creates magic.”
This theme of optimism in the face of automation and technological advancements was the tenant of digital strategist Ross Simmonds’ Diana and Charles Tisdall Lecture in Communications. The future is coming; however, public relations and communications practitioners will harness it to be more effective than ever before.
The notion that robots are coming for our jobs has been around since the 1950s, and there is a direct correlation between the number of robots and the availability of certain blue-collar jobs like manufacturing; it will not be too far in the future when even farming becomes a desk job.
The fact is automation is a necessity for many industries to remain competitive. Not only do robots routine, manual tasks at levels humans will never match, but they are frankly easier to work with; they don’t call in sick, they don’t sexually harass their colleagues, and there is no risk of them getting injured and filing a lawsuit.
Innovations are occurring in nearly every industry, not just blue-collar jobs, and must be accepted and harnessed by practitioners. As Ross notes, “the dismissal of innovation may lead to your own disruption.”
Practitioners in marketing, communications, education, and myriad other industries have been harnessing AI to enhance their performance for decades, but only now are the tools beginning to become more nuanced and powerful.
Clippy from Microsoft Word is one of the earliest examples many of us have had with AI. Using natural language processing the bot was able to determine the type of written task you were performing and offer suggestions to support you. While Clippy was a cumbersome and annoying example of AI, the next iteration of language processing came in the form and Apple’s much more capable Siri.
Through voice commands, Siri can provide users with information, play songs, and complete financial transactions. The latest innovation is Google’s Duplex, which handles natural language processing so well it may replace the role of administrative assistants.
What artificial intelligence and automation can’t replace, however, is the ability to think strategically and imaginatively. According to a recent study by the World Economic Forum, the top 10 skills employers will expect in 2020 are the uniquely human soft skills.
Think of AI as augmented intelligence rather than artificial. These tools will allow us to bring our uniquely human and strategic capabilities to the next level while taking care of the more routine tasks that take up our time and distort our focus.
By embracing artificial intelligence early, we as practitioners will secure ourselves as leaders in our respective industries.
A version of this article may also be found on cprs-hamilton.ca