AI and Human Flexibility

high angle photo of robot
Photo by Alex Knight on

So much focus on machines taking people’s jobs. So little focus on the proportion of total work tasks done by machine versus human. And how that’s changing over time.

So much focus on machines taking over human jobs. So little focus on human biases & negative emotions in the workplace, holding back human productivity and job creation.

If it can be easily traded and easily validated, it can be easily automated.

Differentiate on human flexibility in niches that machines cannot be flexible in. It starts with better understanding human flexibility – something big and hiding in plain sight.

Increasing efficiency by machines leads to commoditisation. Increasing ingenuity by humans leads to monopoly pricing. Therefore whether human or machine, play to your strengths.

First there were village artisans and locally sustainable producers that their communities valued. Then came synthetic commodities and mass consumerism, produced by an industrialised and increasingly automated market economy, fuelled by consumer debt. It’s a test of human flexibility how much to bend the arc of future progress, in favour of globally sustainable, artisan goods and services.


Personal Biases and Personal Flexibility

food healthy people woman
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on

Once bitten twice shy. Do our various biases hold us back from trying again? Is more personal flexibility (PFL) the best medicine for our biases?

Our mental architecture (the neural pathways in our brains) might favour strengthening various well-worn pathways, as a coping mechanism for the daily onslaught of sensory information we face.

• We sample what is convenient & comfortable to sample (selection bias).
• We notice the things that confirm the views we already hold (confirmation bias).
• We like to associate with those like ourselves (group or ‘me too’ bias).
• We over-estimate how soon improvements happen, but under-estimate their impact (judgement bias).
• We leap into action at the first opportunity, telling ourselves we should be more spontaneous and that it makes us look more powerful, by being decisive (action bias).

Then there are a load of other biases that (biased?) psychologists tell us we suffer from.
There are so many biases swirling around, it’s a wonder we achieve anything useful, ever! That said, can personal flexibility (PFL) help us counter, or at least moderate our biases? And if so, what form might that PFL usefully take?

1. Holding two opposing views at the same time is one form of PFL. Less a case of madness. More a case of seeing the merits of both sides of an argument. More strange still, our opposing views can happen implicitly – the risk aversion bias many of us have (to trying new things in case they don’t work out), works against a risk-minimising strategy of diversification (not putting all your eggs in one basket).

2. Forcing ourselves to take a second, more considered look is another PFL technique. For example, looking at a radical painting in an art gallery to think more about the artist’s message to the viewer. Or in the animal kingdom, a shark circling its potential prey, is partly waiting for more information.