Earlier this year, HubSpot released a report on Artificial Intelligence (AI) that laid out opportunities for businesses to leverage AI in customer service and ecommerce.

Additionally, the report detailed how AI would impact nearly all facets of business and modern life in the near future, citing the rapid pace of AI company acquisitions by established technology companies like Google, Twitter, and Intel.

AI versus Virtual VERSUS REMOTE

As Prialto’s CEO, I have always been passionate about replacing the word “virtual” when it comes to describing human beings. But I get it. The business world needs a word to rally around, and virtual has come to mean a “remote worker” rather than some sort of computer-generated helper.

With that in mind, I was asked to weigh in on Hubspot’s AI report as it pertained to the impact of AI on the human workplace of today as well as the future.

Read my response article below.

I read HubSpot’s AI report from at least three perspectives:

  1. That of a business owner managing employees who can leverage or be threatened by AI
  2. That of a sales person who needs to explain how our services are differentiated from current AI-only services
  3. That of a parent (Dadpreneur) thinking about my kids growing up in an AI-enabled world

The chart below especially stood out for me. It shows our growing level of comfort with AI for customer service requests. It touches on each of the three perspectives above, and asserts that openness to AI increases for easy service questions and plummets for complex questions.

Hubspot AI report 2017

Why is that?

Humans still trust humans more than AI

Most people experience AI in the same way they experience an unengaged call center agent. In both instances, customer service fails to understand the broader context and is unable to apply the pattern recognition necessary to handle subtle or esoteric requests.

The incredible pace of technology innovation has led many of us to think that technology is on the cusp of being able to do almost anything.

Autonomous, self-driving vehicles are a perfect example. We have started to see this technology in practice even while the concept seemed far-fetched and nearly unthinkable just a few years ago. But despite its wondrous complexity, the driverless car is easier to perfect than the nuanced, high-touch requests of a valuable customer. The driverless car can assume that we all have an equal right to get from point A to point B, but interacting with customers involves a lot of subtle sociology in which esoteric desires and subtle forms of communication play a defining role.

For these subtle forms of communication, the human + AI relationship is still the most powerful. When we allow the machine to do the algorithmic work, information can be collated quickly and correctly so that humans can step in at the creatively complex touchpoints.

The human AI relationship

Let’s go back to the three perspectives I mentioned above.

The first is as a business owner whose employees can leverage or be threatened by AI. The second is as a sales person who needs to explain how we are differentiated.

At Prialto, our core service is human virtual executive assistants that support executives and founders. A large part of this is managing meetings.

Scheduling is a task that many AI companies have targeted as a good use case to address. Consequently, many of our employees have asked me if they will get replaced by AI one day, and many prospective customers ask me why they should spend money on our service instead of subscribing to automated scheduling software.

But scheduling is actually a perfect use case to illustrate where AI and humans make good partners. You can think of it in terms of a basic 80/20 rule. Embrace AI software to reduce the 80% of time you spend on lower-order tasks and increase the 20% of time you spend on strategic work.

80/20 rule for calendar scheduling management

At Prialto, we’re helping our virtual executive assistants “move up the ladder” toward more strategic tasks that will truly move executive workflows forward and improve business growth.

80/20 rule for time management

This same rule plays out in other areas of business.

Think about the 80/20 breakdown of content marketing. Today, most marketers are spending most of their time on tactical components of their job, the work that is ripe for AI to take on. A good human + AI partnership will mean content marketers spend more time on the strategic stuff that today only comprises 20% of their time.

80/20 rule for content marketing

Again, I predict that we’ll see AI start moving up the ladder. Enabling content marketers to be more and more effective as the tech improves.

80/20 rule for content marketers

One more example, let’s look at a sales use case. Many sales people today may spend more than 80% of their time on the tactical stuff. The whole sales profession could be transformed once AI takes on that workload and frees sales people up to get better at that 20% of strategic work.

80/20 rule for sales enablement

Today, most sales people spend their days at the 2nd and 3rd tier of this ladder. There’s so much room for AI to improve sales productivity.

80/20 rule for sales teams

The future of the human AI relationship

As a Dadprenuer working to adopt AI into my service company, I also wonder about how my three children will make their way in an AI-enabled world.

As muscle jobs have declined and brainy jobs have increased over the last fifty years, a good education has been in high demand. Education has been a ticket into the middle or upper-middle class.

But as I watch my kids interact seamlessly with the Amazon Echo my wife and I purchased this past Christmas — asking Alexa to play songs or read them books — I wonder whether machines will now commodify intelligence and knowledge work the way machines previously commodified strength and physical labor.

I think not.

Higher order knowledge is not the simple act of putting together a few basic facts. Yes, machines will increasingly do this at higher speeds and with greater accuracy. But, this is precisely why we should be teaching our kids, our employees, and our companies to focus on the work of leveraging many information inputs to creatively solve human problems.

In my mind, our kids — who are the world’s future workers — and their companies will win by continuing to perfect the partnership between AI and humans.