Jay Baer posted recently about new marketing technology that does amazing content creation and how AI will drive the cost of marketing, particularly content marketing, to nearly zero. In the process, he asks, what's left for humans? He ends with an example about Michael, a barista who does amazing coffee art and says a machine could obviously do the same for nearly zero cost, but is that what we want? A life of expediency without joy?
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Jay's fears are largely unfounded, but there are things to be concerned about. AI and robotics will create a world of efficiency, to be sure. The main promises of AI to the end customer, to the customer experience, is a better customer experience than we currently receive from companies. On the company side, of course, it's about cutting costs - namely humans.
But AI will not take jobs in the sense of roles. Michael the barista isn't going to be replaced by a robot because he's excellent at what he does and clearly loves his work. Excellence is not at stake.
What's at stake - and what will impact millions of people - is inferiority. Terrible customer service. Terrible work quality. Think of the industries we associate with a terrible customer experience:
- Cable and phone companies
- The Department of Motor Vehicles
We automatically assume, when dealing with entities like these, that our experience is going to suck. We mentally prepare ourselves for a confrontation, rather than a delightful customer experience.
AI and robotics promise minimum competency. They promise both the customer and the company minimally viable competence and a guaranteed mediocre experience. Think about McDonald's. Do you go to McDonald's for the best hamburger in the world? No. You go to McDonald's for a guaranteed experience and a burger that's okay - but okay is very often good enough.
So whose jobs are at stake? Not Michael the barista and coffee artist. The thousands of people who work at coffee shop chains who don't enjoy their jobs, who phone it in, who make no effort to do more than the minimum amount of work. Robots and AI could replace every one of the people who hate their jobs or are terrible at their jobs and automatically elevate the customer experience from equally terrible to mediocre. Customers would be deliriously happy with the correct order, promptly made, with their name properly spelled on the coffee cup, even if a human never touched it. This will extend to every industry including marketing technology.
The lesson is clear for all of us: be excellent or be replaced. If we're terrible at our jobs, if we hate our jobs, we are the first candidates for replacement by machines.
Those of us who love our jobs, who love our work, who invest in our ongoing professional development and training - our jobs and personal careers will be safe. There will always be room at the table for human excellence.
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