The Only Way I Might Survive “AI”


Be more like Alfred the Bulter, and less like Ke Jie the GO world champion.

For a low skilled person like me, artificial intelligence, “AI”, will take my job away. I don’t have much hope, but I find thinking through how I might slow down this eventual death, a rather fun one. I started looking around at all jobs, from cab drivers to delivery man to screen writers, and think, “Should I do this instead? When will this be replaced by “AI” and why?”

The other day I was at McDonald’s and even though the food tasted the same, somehow it felt like a better than normal experience. I think it was because of the staff who took my order. He was really friendly. Wait, no. More than that. He was … 🤔

I felt he smiled genuinely. I can’t pinpoint what he did to make me feel this way. But he made me feel he smiled genuinely.

He asked me, “Hey you. The normal order?” I think he knew I wasn’t much of a talker. He didn’t just apply the generic welcoming gestures on me. I felt he knew me, and cared enough about his understanding of me, and treated me in a way that I would feel cared for.

He didn’t scream goodbye. Rather, he gave me this look … this “See you” look … or nod … I can’t articulate it. Basically he made me feel he was happy to see me, and I would feel welcome to interact with him again. I can’t pinpoint what he did to make me feel this way. But he made me feel he appreciated my visit and would be happy to see me again.

On the flip side, I also had many of these … “meh” experiences, even though the brand tried hard to please. For example, I was at a Uniqlo. The staff greeted me at the door with loud “Welcome to Uniqlo.” They were responsive when I asked them for help. The lady at checkout was fast, clear and … cordial. The experience didn’t feel bad, or great. It was normal. It was predictable, expected and perhaps … robotic.

I think you get my point, and I think instinctively we all get it — human interactions define almost entirely how we feel and remember most things. And we all know how we feel about our experiences in a shop, with a service, do drive business.

Fundamentally, I think we all know that if a customer feels good, 90% of the “battle” is done. Or if our relationship with a teammate is great, we are likely to perform really well. Shouldn’t we do anything we can, to carve out space and time for our teams to devote all their energy and effort into connecting with the customers/each other?

Or the other way to look at this is, how come this doesn’t seem to happen in today’s world? What are some of the things that stop this from happening. What are things that get in the way of allowing us to just focus on … interacting with each other?

Let’s use McDonald’s as a way to go through this. What are the distractions? Punching in orders;?The processes require for staff to handle orders; When a team member has to punch in orders, or clean up piles of trash, or flip burgers, or anything that takes their time and attention away from the human interaction, the time they have to craft a wonderful interaction, is less!

Think about it. The time and skill needed for anyone to sense/decipher/gauge/understand another person enough to then make them feel good, is actually significant. It surely doesn’t help that almost none of our existing restaurants clinics offices banks whatever, is ever designed to give the staff the time/room/knowledge to allow them to understand and then delight.

In a perfect world, AI would come in, and let you be more human. This would be an ideal but probably overly hopeful way to cope with AI.

On the other, if I want to be a bit more proactive about surviving the AI onslaught, I should start doing things that will hone these “uniquely human” skills. I SHOULD be worried if what I do is not that “human” and highly replaceable. Maybe this will help articulate it further:

It will take much longer to create a Jarvis to replace Bulter Alfred than to have an AlphaGo to replace a worldclass GO player. Supposedly, for AI to become “human”, or what they call “Artificial General Intelligence”, it will take a while.

I think the trap many of us are in, is we actually like the security and predictability from the mastery of skills/tasks. We prefer to perform a task accurately repeatedly. Regurgitating the welcoming lines in store is far more reliable than to spend energy and time to figure out who the customer/other person is. The reward of competently balancing a ledger account, is specific and relatively less risky; the reward of trying to connect with another person is … risky, unpredictable, and often negative (think of all the time you tried to be nice and the other person just didn’t really appreciate it).

So the way I am going to try to hold off longer before AI eventually comes to replace me, is to find any way I could, to work on my “uniquely human” skills. It seems to be ever more urgent to invest all my time and effort into honing skills that are “uniquely human”, then any other so called new/complex skills/tasks.

Then, what are “uniquely human” skills? I don’t really know, but I think treating how I improve interacting with people, the same way how I used to hone my other typical tasks/skills, would be a reasonable place to start. Or another way to think about this is, will being more “human” in what I need to do, generate better business, make me less dispensable? Which one is more “human”? Spending time learning how to render the mustache on Mario, or wasting hours tugging the emotions of a plot twist with a team?

So yea, you should start divesting the hours you are spending on strategizing a 3 year global brand plan, into … connecting with someone.

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