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  • John Ennis

Book Review - Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI

Welcome to Aigora's "Review" series, where we review items - such as books and conferences - relevant to Aigora blog readers!

Review Score: 5 stars out of 5

It's always amusing to me when the AI-powered recommendation system at Amazon reads my mind and recommends the perfect AI-related book to me. Right now, as I'm visiting various clients, I'm finding that a common concern among those who are paying attention is that, eventually, AI will replace all human workers and people will either be unemployable (>99% of people) or incredibly rich (<1% of people). I was already coming to believe that those fears are overblown - I have noticed already a number of new jobs appearing in such exploding areas as influencer marketing, extended reality (XR), and precision farming - but "Human + Machine" firmly convinced me that, for the foreseeable future at least, AI is going to be an economic boon for humans the world over.

Written by Paul Daugherty and Jim Wilson, this optimistic book explains how AI is going to allow humans and machines to work together as collaborators instead of competitors, and is going to liberate humans from many of the artificial constraints on work left over from the industrial revolution. During the industrial revolution, the authors explain, humans had to adapt to machines. But now, machines can adapt to humans instead thanks to the flexibility of modern machine learning, so that humans and machines can gradually come to work together in a progressively more symbiotic relationship.

Throughout the book, the authors press the concept of the "Missing Middle," which is the class of jobs that sits between the jobs that only machines can do and the jobs that only humans can do. In the missing middle, humans and machines cooperate to be more effective than either could be individually, with humans providing judgment and creativity and machines providing processing power, memory, and excellence at automation. The vast majority of jobs in the future will come from the missing middle, and it is only blindness to the existence of the missing middle that causes doomsayers to predict widespread unemployment as a result of AI.

To help elucidate the missing middle to corporate leaders, the authors provide the "MELDS" framework, which stands for Mindset, Experimentation, Leadership, Data, and Skills. Through numerous examples, they systematically demonstrate how this framework will help corporate leaders make wise decisions so their companies can leverage artificial intelligence effectively.

My only criticism of the book is that the book seemed to assume that the responsibility for AI preparedness rested only with corporate leaders, and they often seemed to act as if the dictates of these leaders would make or break the futures of those lower down in the organization. In this regard, I must disagree, as I believe it is the responsibility of all workers, especially scientists, to educate themselves now on the changes that are coming and to prepare themselves accordingly. That way, even if their organizations fail, they will be able to succeed with a new organization, perhaps even of their own making.

In all, I thought it was an excellent book that made potentially complex ideas easy to grasp. The book clarified in my own thinking the various ways that work will change in the near future, and helped me to feel optimistic as well that AI is going to make work more human again.

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