Human-Computer ‘Super-minds’ Redefine the Future of Work

Comments Off on Human-Computer ‘Super-minds’ Redefine the Future of Work
Human-Computer ‘Super-minds’ Redefine the Future of Work

Recently, the Trends editors presented a Webinar about the impact of AI and other digital technologies on economic growth and productivity. (If you missed it, we’ve included a link in this month’s printable edition.) The focus was on ways that the synergy between human and machine intelligence would create economic value far in excess of the sum of the parts. If, and by what mechanism this will happen, is currently the subject of intense debate in scientific, business, and government circles.

This ongoing, and sometimes loud, debate about how many and what kinds of future jobs smart machines will leave for humans to do is missing a salient point; that is, “Just as the automation of human work in the past allowed people and machines to do many things that couldn’t be done before, groups of people and computers working together will be able to do many things in the future that neither can do alone now.”

To think about how this will happen, it’s useful to contemplate an obvious but not widely appreciated fact: Virtually all human achievements — from developing written language to making a turkey sandwich — require the work of groups of people, not just lone individuals. Even the breakthroughs of individual geniuses like Albert Einstein weren’t conjured out of thin air; they were erected on vast amounts of prior work by others.

According to MIT professor Thomas W. Malone, human groups that accomplished all these things can be described as “superminds.” In his ground-breaking new book Superminds: The Surprising Power of People and Computers Thinking Together, Malone defines a supermind as “a group of individuals acting together in ways that seem intelligent.”

Today, superminds take many forms including:

  • the hierarchies in most businesses and other organizations;
  • the markets that help create and exchange many kinds of goods and services;
  • the communities that use norms and reputations to guide behavior in many professional, social, and geographical groups; and
  • the democracies that are common in governments and some other organizations...

    To continue reading, become a paid subscriber for full access.
    Already a Trends Magazine subscriber? Login for full access now.

Subscribe for as low as $195/year

  • Get 12 months of Trends that will impact your business and your life
  • Gain access to the entire Trends Research Library
  • Optional Trends monthly CDs in addition to your On-Line access
  • Receive our exclusive "Trends Investor Forecast 2015" as a free online gift
  • If you do not like what you see, you can cancel anytime and receive a 100% full refund