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Why Machines Won’t Replace People in Collaborative Communications

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 - 14:15
Human vs Machine Collaboration

The Importance of Private, Reliable, Secure Business Communications

In the last post of our blog series we elaborated "3 Digital Trends That Will Change Collaboration in 2017" For part seven, we take the argument further to explain…

Part 7: Why Machines Won’t Replace People in Collaborative Communications

"Nearly half (45 percent) of the more than 800 tech visionaries surveyed by World Economic Forum (WEF) anticipate the first Artificial Intelligence (AI) machine will serve as a director on a corporate board by 2026."
-  “12 Amazing Tech Predictions for the Next Decade ” – Baseline Magazine

Yikes. Is technology automating people out of the business world?

About four years ago, an excellent article by the editor of MIT Technology Review weighs both sides of the point and concludes:

"In the race against the machine, some are likely to win while many others lose.”

We agree with that statement – with a slight revision. We expect, at least in the case of collaborative communications, there will be many more winners than losers.

Why? Because machines don’t communicate. People do. And machines don’t collaborate with people in a literal sense. The reality is machines enable people to collaborate with other people. And in an increasingly digital business environment, this fact isn’t a threat. It’s an advantage.

Digital communications platforms can move more and more data, farther and faster than ever before. Of course, that’s not communicating information. That’s distributing it, as we argued in our post about the escalating trend of “democratizing data.”

Take, for example, the provocative WEF findings cited at the beginning of this post. Sure, maybe machines will find their way into corporate boardrooms in fewer than 10 years. But what will those AI “directors” be doing for those businesses? Will they be making decisions? Or just presenting business options based on Big Data analysis to other members of the board?

We suspect the latter will be the case. And the MIT Technology Review column supports our position. The three types of AI-enabled machines cited in the column are designed not to replace thinking people but to support their decisions. So, in this light, the digital technology spreading worldwide makes human involvement in business more critical than ever.

Machines Don’t Tell Stories. People Do.

The crux of collaborative communications in business is people sharing information with colleagues, customers, prospects and partners. And in this way, digital devices aren’t de-humanizing us, we’re humanizing them.

3 Ways We are Humanizing Modern Machines

1. Connecting and Acquiring is Shifting to Applying and Optimizing

While total internet usage by consumers is decreasing, cloud adoption by businesses is accelerating. IDC researchers project annual spending on public cloud services will double before the end of this decade. At the same time, as sales of smartphones wane, companies implementing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs for workers – especially remote employees – will rise. We see these trends as offsetting, as organizations shift attention from acquiring and connecting to technology, to applying it for business purposes and optimizing it.

2. Devices are Becoming Less Like Machines and More Like Us

IT advisor Gartner forecasts that, in less than five years, “digital assistants” conducting multi-channel facial and voice recognition mimic human conversations, with “listening and speaking, a sense of history, in-the-moment context, timing and tone…” So, soon we will talk to devices as we talk to other people and vice versa. We view, for example, the current transition from text to voice commands in latest wave of tech tools as establishing a future standard.

3. Communicating is Evolving from Exchanging Information to Telling Stories

Susan Weinschenk , author of the “Brain Wise” column for Psychology Today, once shared these insights about the proliferation of video conferencing in business:

“Everyone likes stories. We like to listen to stories, read stories, watch stories (movies, TV, theatre) and tell stories. In fact, stories are our normal mode of information processing. Stories are so normal to us that we don’t even stop to think about why that is.”

Following Weinschenk’s thinking, the march of digital technology – especially in communication – is not systematizing humanity out of business processes – it’s making these practices more and more human with each generation of gadgetry.

Will increasingly intelligent machines continue to play a greater role in business at every level? No doubt they will. But, at least in terms of collaborative communications, instead of replacing people, we expect these innovative technologies will make people irreplaceable.

Next: Best practices for secure, reliable, private business communications.

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