How to Succeed in an Age of Smart Machines

Many people fear that smart machines will take their jobs. In a new book, Edward D. Hess and Katherine Ludwig describe how we must excel at things machines can’t do well to succeed in this new era.

Humility is the New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart Machine Age is a convincing how-to guide for surviving – and thriving – in an age led by machine intelligence, from humanoid robots to networked devices.

The “Smart Machine Age” will be as transformative for workers today as the Industrial Revolution was for our predecessors, Hess and Ludwig write.

Drawing on multidisciplinary research, personal anecdotes, and examples from successful organizations and people, Humility Is the New Smart makes the case that human excellence demands a new way of thinking. Rather than compete directly with intelligent machines, we must consider what it is that makes us human.

How to Succeed in an Age of Smart MachinesHess and Ludwig focus on the jobs and skills that complement technology: critical thinking, innovative thinking, creativity, and high emotional engagement with others that fosters relationship building and collaboration, the authors write.

But in their view, those skills are not easy to execute well. Society typically favours high grades over mastery and teaches us to avoid failure at all costs, they argue.

Instead of emphasizing competition, the authors assert that we need new mental models. “Many of us will have to fundamentally change our views of what it means for humans to be ‘smart’ and what it takes for humans to succeed and reach their fullest potential,” Hess and Ludwig write.

The authors offer a new term: “NewSmart”, which they define as “excelling at the highest level of thinking, learning, and emotionally engaging with others that one is capable of doing.” Humility, too, is reimagined, as a mindset about oneself that is open-minded and self-accurate.

With these concepts in mind, the authors describe four “NewSmart Behaviours”: Quieting Ego, Managing Self, Reflective Listening, and Otherness. But don’t expect quick fixes. These new ways of thinking require deliberate daily effort.

NewSmart organizations, the authors suggest, will be staffed by a combination of smart robots, smart machines, and smart humans. Of course, creating and using software is a vital facet of how we will succeed at work, and the importance of using digital skills to adapt to new technology will only continue to grow, which is why each of us must embrace the tools to become lifelong learners. Hess and Ludwig make the case that these future work environments must also be humanistic, emotionally positive, and collaborative.

“Whether you work for a big company or a small company or you’re a freelancer or entrepreneur, your success will depend on the quality of your thinking and your abilities to connect and emotionally engage with other people,” Hess and Ludwig write.

Yes, smart machines are better than humans at a lot of things, but they can’t replace the empathetic connections we have with each other. From being more open-minded to improving our emotional intelligence, Hess and Ludwig guide us through an uplifting journey to learn what it will take to succeed in the smart machine age. We need to be better humans.

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