AI Promises Automatic Minimum Competence

One of the promises of artificial intelligence is taking tasks that humans do and scaling them massively, while adhering to defined best practices. This promise will help companies and brands achieve automatic minimum competence, with gigantic implications. Let’s dig into what these are.

The Human Experience

Consider the average human experience – that is, the experience an average human creates for a customer in a business setting. An average human begins a new job or a new task with near-complete incompetence. Whether it’s cooking a souffle or programming a machine, the average human tends to do exceptionally poorly the first time they perform a task.

Over time, what happens? The human achieves mediocrity, then competence, and finally – after thousands of hours – excellence. Thousands of hours translates into years, if not decades, of work in order to reach excellence.

For the majority of human workers, their tenancy in any given job is fewer than 5 years. Thus, their level of excellence at a job-specific task is likely to never exceed competence; only a select few workers will dwell long enough in a job to achieve excellence and mastery.

Thus, the average human experience delivered to customers is likely to be mediocre at best, incompetent at worst, and only rarely excellent. Let’s compare artificial intelligence.

AI Skips The Wait Time

The time to competency for an artificial intelligence system, a machine learning system, is significantly shorter than for humans. This time to competency is shorter for three reasons.

First, AI systems typically will begin with a set of rules that humans must necessarily understand and adhere to. Just learning the rules can take 4-8 weeks on the job for humans, much less excelling under those rules. Machines will start with rules as boundaries at the outset.

Second, AI systems begin with a training data set of competence-based outcomes. No one would dare train a commercial production chatbot with the most surly interactions from the least-engaged employees. Instead, they’d train the chatbot only on interactions with customers which resulted in high customer satisfaction scores. Likewise, no one would build a machine learning system designed to forecast unsuccessful business outcomes as a desired goal; we would train the system to forecast using successful business outcomes.

Third, AI systems learn in a networked way. When a single human employee learns a new task, that knowledge tends to remain confined within that human mind. When an AI system learns a new task, or learns from an error, the entire system learns. Every instance of that AI system learns from the past and all systems immediately upgrade to the latest knowledge.

As a result, instead of beginning at zero and taking years to learn, make mistakes, and eventually adjust, our AI systems will begin at minimum levels of competence. Just as fast food chains and industrial food production systems ensure uniform, acceptable food outcomes like hamburgers and french fries, so too will our AI systems transform our information and knowledge-based outputs into uniform, acceptable business outcomes.

Automatic Minimum Competence Consequences

We will see two consequences from automatic minimum competence. First, overall customer satisfaction (and thus repeat business/referrals) will increase. Customers will have more satisfying interactions with AI than with humans on average. Companies, as a result, will see higher purchases, more repeat business, and greater satisfaction scores.

Second, new entrants to the workforce or those changing jobs will face a much higher barrier to entry. Only those career positions which require the unique skills of humans will be open to the entry-level workforce, because no rational business will choose an incompetent human over an automatically-competent machine whenever the choice is possible.

Prepare yourself and your career by achieving excellence today in what you do; for those technically-inclined, developing new ways for machines to model competence and excellence will be highly-lucrative opportunities in the months and years to come.


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