Empathetic Human vs Efficient Machine

My son is going on a school trip to France and since he holds an Indian passport he has to apply for Schengen visa. This morning we went to the company that processes Schengen visa applications.
Although the experience was pleasant enough and fairly efficient it made me wonder how secure are the jobs of the people working in this company? How secure is the future of the company itself?
Work they are doing – inspecting original documents, ticking boxes on a checklist, receiving payment, biometric finger printing… these tasks are easily replaced by an algorithm, specially as scanning and digitizing bank document, birth certificate, passport and even biometric finger printing can easily be done at home and submitted online.
Even more important is to ask if the whole process can be reinvented? Can someone think different and create value in a novel way?
Surprisingly when it comes to tourist visas Turkey has got it right. You can now apply for a visa online and the process takes just a few minutes. I am sure simplifying the visa process will get Turkey more boost in tourism than an expensive tourism ad campaign.
I used today’s visa trip to discuss with my son what sort of skills and competencies will make sure that he is not replaced by an algorithm (he is 12 and he may well have to compete with artificial intelligence instead).
He made an interesting observation. Few weeks back, as part of his school debating team, few students along with their teacher were going to the debating venue after school. All of them didn’t have an Oyster card so they approached the Transport for London official at the station and he allowed them entry. My son pointed out that in the ongoing debate about replacing humans with automated machines at the London tube stations, he prefers interfacing with humans.
I think the key question is whether the human you are interfacing with is empathetic or not. If not, you would prefer the efficiency of a machine. Ask yourself who/what would you prefer dealing with – an angry bank teller or ATM, an un-attentive shopkeeper or a vending machine, a lazy check-in executive or a self check-in machine.
In the world we live in there is a lot of premium on efficiency so chances are algorithm and artificial intelligence will be our preference, unless the human beings we are dealing with are capable of highly empathetic decision making, adding value and when we interface with them it is a pleasant and enjoyable experience.
I hope as he is growing up my son learns the ability to think different and create value, learns empathetic decision-making and collaboration and most important, he becomes a pleasant human being.

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