Social Intelligence Can’t Be Automated

November 8, 2018 | TRACOM Group | HCI
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Social Intelligence vs. Artificial Intelligence

Your first memory of Artificial Intelligence (AI) might be when the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue beat the reigning world chess champion, Garry Kasparov in 1997.

Deep Blue was a “supercomputer,” but it was nothing compared to what IBM invented next. Figuring a human name was finally appropriate, IBM simply called it Watson.

In 2011, Watson defeated two humans playing Jeopardy. Jeopardy is on a completely different level than chess because the answers are not finite -- they’re open-ended and very nuanced. That awakened the world to the idea of AI. Next thing you know, we see TV commercials with Watson explaining to Bob Dylan how it can create new songs.

A process called “machine learning” allows software programs to analyze what artists have accomplished through the years and not only replicate them, but produce original works of art. The Google Brain team used machine learning to create Magenta: AI that generates songs and drawings. Here’s an original song composed by Magenta >>

Source: The Art and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Rutgers University.

On the visual arts front, a Rutgers teacher fed 80,000 works of art from the last 500 years into a software program that created new, original pieces of art. When evaluated against existing art (made by professional artists) the reviewer failed to determine which works of art were created by humans and which were drawn by the Rutgers software. See the image above to decide for yourself.

Nearly all the people inventing this stuff who we’ve seen interviewed say basically the same thing: “These inventions are not designed to replace humans, but to help us.” When pressed, they’ll typically add something like, “Well, sure, I suppose some jobs might be affected by this…”

So what does all this mean for our jobs, for our organizations? CNBC says that one million U.S. jobs are expected to disappear by 2026 and one-third of U.S. workers could be jobless by 2030 due to automation. Until this point, many thought AI would mainly take over simple tasks like parts assembly or packing and shipping from a warehouse.

Not so.

Let’s take a look at an industry that’s decidedly white collar—the law profession. AI can now predict Supreme Court decisions using the Supreme Court Database, which has information on cases dating back to 1791, to build an algorithm that predicts any justice’s vote at any time. One study said this method has an 83 percent accuracy rate, which is better than legal scholars.

Machines have been taking over human jobs for a long, long time, but never this fast and never before these kinds of jobs. Insert your bad lawyer joke here, but the question becomes: Will we need lawyers if Artificial Intelligence can do this work? The answer is, Yes we will—but only if those lawyers are skilled in relating to other people.

Who sways the jury? Who builds the relationship with plaintiffs, with defendants, with judges?

We’re not predicting the end of mankind, but rather pointing out that humans need to change and adapt in order to prevent getting fired by a robot!

Don’t Get Fired By a Robot

Dr. Casey Mulqueen, organizational psychologist for the TRACOM Group, says it’s clear that organizations of the future will require people with flexible mindsets and interpersonal skills so they can deal with constant change and build meaningful relationships.

“The thing about technical skills is they have a half-life; eventually they’re no longer up-to-date,” Dr. Mulqueen said. “It will take ‘social intelligence,’ which can’t be automated.“

“These are fundamental skills and, once you learn them and they become your new habits, they last a lifetime,” he said. “These skills accelerate our human capabilities and set us apart from AI.”

This is especially true in these four core areas:

  1. Communicating: Understanding differences in how people behave and interact
  2. Connecting: Developing deeper, more meaningful relationships
  3. Adapting: Being able to withstand change and grow through adversity
  4. Innovating: Proactively causing change and disruption

Social Intelligence skills do not come naturally to most of us. What a lot people don’t understand is that we’re hindered by cognitive biases that distort how we think, act and react to the world around us, and this affects our Social Intelligence.

All people are affected by cognitive biases, a distortion in thinking that leads to mistakes and bad decision, which happens because our brains are essentially lazy – we look for quick interpretations of events and easy solutions to problems. This is why people develop habits, so they don’t have to use precious energy.

Habits and shortcuts are ubiquitous—some research suggests that we spend about 40 percent of our waking hours doing things that don’t require any active thinking. That’s easy on our brains and conserves energy to think about other things, but the side effect is that we’re often oblivious to what’s going on around us, and we make bad decisions without realizing it.

Think of your work commute and how much of it is done on autopilot. You’ll drive for 30 minutes without any active thinking about what you’re doing. This happens because our brains are using shortcuts, and we aren’t always paying attention to what’s going on around us.

These biases evolved for good reasons. They helped us to process information quickly, meet basic needs and survive in hostile environments. But in the modern world they come with costs.

How to Break the Biases

To develop better Social Intelligence, we need to break past these cognitive biases by changing our behavior and habits.

Learning to be socially intelligent means learning to recognize that there are cognitive biases that are affecting you, your team and your organization. For example, the self-evaluation bias holds us back from more effectively communicating; the transparency bias prevents us from building deeper relationships by connecting; the negativity bias prevents us from being more resilient and adapting; and the tunnel vision bias hinders us from innovating and being more agile.

People who are socially intelligent understand the effects that biases have on their mindset and behavior. So they alter their behavior and change their habits by developing new routines, new ways of doing things.

It’s not as difficult as you might think. The first step is to learn where those habits come from. (Hint: usually it’s from the biases.) Why do we keep doing things the same way? Why do we keep treating customers the same way? Once you learn to recognize those biases, you can learn to mitigate them by making some really simple changes to your behavior.

Social intelligence is our differentiator from artificial intelligence. It’s what we can do to better ourselves as leaders, as team members, and—most importantly—as humans.