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AI the Shortcut to Mediocrity

In an era where artificial intelligence (AI) is reshaping landscapes, it’s worth pondering Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion in his book “Outliers” that mastery requires 10,000 hours of practice (that is almost 5 years if spending 40 hours a week on your chosen skill).

This raises a critical question: As AI tools increasingly handle tasks that once demanded intensive learning, are we, as a society, edging toward a future of mediocrity? Let’s look at the implications of AI’s rise, scrutinising who stands to win or lose, and reflecting on what this means for future generations and the essence of being human.

Navigating a Future of Automated Expertise

The allure of AI lies in its efficiency and precision. Tasks that once took hours, now take minutes. But here’s the rub: When AI simplifies tasks, it also strips away the nuanced understanding developed through long hours of practice. The ‘shortcut’ AI provides is seductive, but it risks creating a workforce skilled in using tools yet lacking deep expertise.

We have already seen the damage this does in digital accounting. The team no longer understand the debits and credits behind the transactions. That wouldn’t be an issue if we posted things correctly, we have automated the process of making a mess and no one understands how to fix it. Take that a step further by not understanding how the tool that helped you arrive at that mess works.

I don’t know the computer did it or I followed what had been done before is not a valid defence.

Winners and Losers in the AI Game

The real winners? Large corporations and enterprises. They stand to gain from AI’s ability to automate repetitive tasks, increase productivity, and cut costs. But this victory comes at a price. The losers, arguably, are the workers whose skills are being devalued in the AI-driven marketplace. Future generations might be robbed of the satisfaction and depth of knowledge that comes from hard-earned expertise. Some of us enjoy the pain of the journey.

With all the time you ‘gain’ from using AI your bosses are going to allow you more time to go explore and create. Yeah, right. 🤣 Your hopper will be filled with more work stuff. You can generate even more income for the ‘firm’. You will be expected to do more than ever before and if you don’t you will pay the ultimate price with your job because someone else can.

Small businesses can win big by adapting a human first approach. When we have automated the hell out of every process what will truly set you apart is you. Your personality, your empathy, your creativity, and that of the team around you – provided you still have a team left of course. When every business around you is a sea of sameness you can win big by simply being yourself. The next big thing is being human. The biggest winner in the AI game are the best humans.

The Dilution of Human Experience

If everyone follows AI-generated patterns and rules, aren’t we commoditising what makes us uniquely human? The richness of human experience is in diversity and unpredictability, not in uniformity. AI, for all its benefits, could be steering us towards a bland uniformity.

That might be the will of large corporates and shareholders who require tasks to be carried out in that way but as humans that is not what we are great at. If you want to treat humans like robots just use robots.

Last year Dave Sellick of Sidgrove put out a rallying cry at the Digital Accounting Show about the Humanisation of Accounting and it was awesome. Here is how Dave see’s us working in harmony with tech. There is no getting away from the increasing reliance on tech but it needs to be utilised in the right way.

If you are going to use AI to help us, be better at the things, we are good at then I’m all ears. We are all unique and we shouldn’t want to dilute that.

The Impact on Future Generations

Future generations face a peculiar challenge. With AI handling complex tasks, they might never experience the struggle and triumph of mastering a skill. This lack of ‘reference points’ can lead to a diluted understanding of effort and reward. We risk nurturing a generation adept at interfacing with technology but alienated from the nuances of human craftsmanship.

In doing this the things that we value in the future will be human craftmanship. My advice to a young me would be to double down on soft skills. Be the non-bland person in the room. Have an opinion, backed up in experience and knowledge. Having an opinion might just make you the most interesting person in the room.

If you don’t do this, you will just fade into the background. You will become the magnolia wall paint of your time. Wow that sounds exciting.

Will we lose the ability to think for ourselves? Who will we follow? Does that represent a huge opportunity?

Dehumanisation in the Workforce

The rampant automation in workplaces raises a disturbing question about the dehumanisation of the workforce. As AI takes over more tasks, the intrinsic value of human labour is questioned. This shift might not only lead to job displacement but also to an existential crisis about the role of humans in a machine-dominated world.

For a person to do their best work they need to feel wanted and valued. There must be a driving force behind them – their purpose. If they do not enjoy working in your business, if they do not feel wanted and valued why are they going to bring the best version of themselves to work for you?

I had the pleasure of attending AI To Infinity and Beyond at Bournemouth University and one of the speakers was Dave Birss creator of the #1 Generative AI course on LinkedIn Learning so somewhat of an expert in the subject of AI. This is what Dave thinks about an AI-first approach for your business.

If like me, you think Dave is talking sense I would urge you to sign up to his Sensible AI Manifesto. It might just be the most sensible thing you do.

The Rush to Uniformity

The unique patterns, mistakes, and learning curves that define human learning and creativity are at risk of being flattened out by AI’s algorithmic approach.

We like uniformity as it means there are expected outcomes from a given situation. This helps us feel in control because we know what the answer should be. But what happens when you don’t know what the answer should be, and you have little or no reference point other than what AI has told you?

Does it matter if we are all uniform in our answers and beliefs. Perhaps the world is flat as well.

Conclusion: Balancing AI and Human Mastery

All I know is if it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, we still have a long road ahead of us as I haven’t met anyone who has been dabbling with this AI malarkey for anything more than 10 minutes. Our uniqueness and independence can be maintained for a little while longer yet.

While AI presents remarkable opportunities, it’s crucial to balance its use with the preservation of human expertise and creativity. We must strive to use AI as a tool that augments human potential, enhancing what we are currently capable of or simply have time to deliver not replaces it.

Ensuring that future generations appreciate the value of hard-earned expertise is essential. In a world increasingly driven by AI, let’s not forget the human touch that adds colour and depth to our experiences.