The Balance of Human Empathy and Artificial Intelligence

Do you know this feeling? You’re driving down the road, following your GPS. You make a wrong turn and your GPS tells you to turn around. Traffic is heavy and you can’t turn right away, so it keeps recalculating, and you can just swear that the voice is getting frustrated with you. Of course this gives insight into the human psyche and the way in which we interpret communication, especially in times of stress. But the reality is that the voice is not raising in frustration, but your feelings of the need to get back on track fuels your feeling of this lifeless voice getting upset because you’re not following his or her every command.

As artificial intelligence continues to grow in both ability and accessibility, a new frontier is forming in how business, and everyday life, is done. From cloud-based solutions, to intelligent robots, to telling Siri “I see a little silhouetto of a man”, the ability for humans to communicate with AI continues to expand, and is poised to grow exponentially in the coming years. By 2025, the artificial intelligence market will surpass $100 billion. – Constellation Research

The concerns from the burgeoning industry range from the ordinary to just downright sci-fi. While some espouse the idea that robots will take over human jobs, there are other concerns of intelligent robots that are programmed for deep learning bringing destruction on the human race. Over the coming years, regulations and laws will evolve that further determine the full scale of capabilities for certain aspects of AI.

But no matter the future of working relationships between robots and humans, it’s important to consider the needed balance of human empathy with artificial intelligence.

To put it simply, artificial intelligence cannot “feel” or process true emotions. They may one day be programmed to deduce from certain conditions that an employee is upset or frustrated, but AI will never be able to relate to humans in that specific type of interaction. And if there ever was a place that served as job security for human vs. robot, it would be in the area of communicating and leading in a way that only a human can.

Results-oriented, empathetic leaders and managers are in high demand today for their ability to motivate, inspire, and recognize the needs of their staff, driving engagement and productivity. As the future of AI unfolds, these “skills” will be needed even more.

One of the great developments in AI is the ability to mine large sums of data in milliseconds. Even further, AI can provide meaningful learning and results, and do so with much less human bias. In other words, AI provides real data, real time, and real raw. The interpretation of data and feedback is essentially the challenge of every employee who wants to remain employed. The cold hard facts of data can leave someone in the same predicament as when you’re driving in the car with your GPS as in the example above. An employee can see the data, understand that there needs to be a course correction, and he or she could swear that the data is getting frustrated. Herein lies the nuance of an effective leader who can take the powerful data that AI provides, and yet give the human element of moving forward and on to the path of innovation once again.

Even today, AI is making life more efficient. Processes that once required hours of upkeep from human touch can now be trusted in the confines of intelligent automation. Processes requiring compliance, verification processes, customer service, and much more can now be leveraged for efficiency and consistency. In short, one of the promises of AI is to more effectively handle processes that will allow humans the freedom to engage in elements of business that require empathy, leadership, and vision casting.

Even in this age, leaders who understand people, how they work, what they fear, what they want, what their strengths are, and most importantly, HOW to get them moving forward is absolutely essential. This ability to relate to another person’s feelings will prove to be even more valuable in a continually progressive, digital world.

While there is a great unknown in the future of AI, there is a certainty that no matter the future, there will always be a need for effective and empathetic leaders…to infinity and beyond.