Future Friday: Is the future of your job in your values and your morality?

by Michael Haberman on February 20, 2015 · 0 comments

Robots can think but they are not so good at moral decisions.

Robots can think but they are not so good at moral decisions.

When people discuss the future of work naturally the subject of robots and artificial intelligence is discussed. Most people agree that many jobs will be taken over by robots and AI but the world is divided on whether these machines will think and thus be able to do the rest of human work. The question becomes will AI replace the need for HR professionals?

What is in danger now?

Take a look at your current job. What do you do that is transactional in nature? What do you do that is repetitive? What do you do that requires speed and precision? These are the things that will be done by a robot in the future. Simpler stuff, like taking dishes off a table, cannot yet be done by robots. This is defined by something called Moravec’s paradox. According to Wikipedia, “Moravec’s paradox is the discovery by artificial intelligence and robotics researchers that, contrary to traditional assumptions, high-level reasoning requires very little computation, but low-level sensorimotor skills require enormous computational resources. …As Moravec writes, ‘it is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult level performance on intelligence tests or playing checkers, and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a one-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility.’

The future of HR jobs

Another area that AI and robots don’t do well deals with values and moral decisions. Machines can be programmed to make decisions based on values but these are the values of the programmer. The original value based decisions still are human-based and this is where the future of HR resides. Fortunately for HR pros AI will not be able to make the nuanced decisions of human situations that require a knowledge of values, morals and ethics.

AI will be able to make decisions on right and wrong based upon specified parameters, but it may not be able to make decisions on the basis of emotional or moral level that is often needed in decisions involving people. It is easy to make a decision to terminate someone that has violated the attendance policy, it is harder to make the decision on the reasons for the absences, and even harder yet to make a decision that violates the policies because it is the “right” thing to do.

So work at keeping the “human” in Human Resources. You will stay employed much longer if you replace transactions with interactions.

For an interesting discussion on this check out What will artificial intelligence mean for the world of work? by Lynda Gratton.

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