AI in a human world

Futurist Kian Gohar gives community college educators tips for using AI during his keynote address at the 2023 Advanced Technological Education Principal Investigators’ Conference. (Photo: Event Photography of North America Corp.)

With generative artificial intelligence (AI) rapidly changing how people work, those who can integrate at least some AI into their daily lives will be better able to adapt and thrive in a world in which people and machines increasingly function side by side, a best-selling author on the future of work said Wednesday.

“We are living at a point in human history that will never be as slow as it is now. Things are accelerating in dramatically different ways…The future is always present, but it arrives in different speeds for different people,” Kian Gohar said in his keynote address to more than 800 people at the 2023 Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Principal Investigators’ Conference in Washington, D.C. The American Association of Community Colleges hosts the annual conference with National Science Foundation support.

Community colleges will have a key role in ensuring everyone can navigate these transitions, Gohar added.

“The responsibility falls upon us as leaders to help bring everybody along…so that we don’t leave people behind,” said Gohar, a futurist and leadership coach who co-wrote the Wall Street Journal best-selling book Competing in the New World of Work with Keith Ferrazzi.

“The great role that community colleges play is the ability to train people across the entire skill level…and help them learn a new skill and help them move up the ladder,” he said.

Opening opportunities

Gohar shared his experience growing up in Santa Monica, California, in an immigrant family of war refugees. As a high school senior “eager to make my mark on America,” he said he enrolled in a night course in  banking operations at Santa Monica College taught by “this amazing professor Ms. Anita Kemp.”

“She opened up a whole new world of vocational training to me…and I ended up getting my first job at a bank when I was still a high school senior,” said Gohar, who is founder and CEO of Geolab, an innovation research and leadership development firm in California.

“This kind of work that you do transforms lives,” he told the gathering.

Still need a human touch

Gohar said AI has been around for a half century and used to be called advanced computing. Generative AI – the fourth and latest generation of AI  – is a large language model designed to create content, text, images, songs and audio. It’s poised to significantly disrupt the workforce, he said, noting about 7% of jobs will be lost to automation and 63% of jobs will have some aspects automated.

Yet, AI has its limits and still requires collaboration between humans and machines, he said. AI tends to produce “B-level” results because these large language models are designed to give you “the most probable answer to what it thinks you want to hear,” Gohar said.

“We need humans to be involved in that iteration,” he said. Humans need to interact with AI by providing context, setting parameters and applying wisdom, experience, empathy and communication to analyses.

“Don’t think of it like Wikipedia. Think of it like a conversation partner to get better ideas,” he said. “Improve your AI hygiene.”

Tips for success

Gohar shared his tips on succeeding in an AI world:

Take a daily task and automate it. “That way you are starting to rewire how you think about getting work done. In the future, it’s not that AI is going to take away all of our jobs, but humans with AI will be able to do more successfully than humans without AI.”

Read extensively. “The mainstream news covers technology in such a way that oftentimes is kind of dated. They are not covering the cutting edge.” He urged those present to identify leaders in fields that interest them and to follow them.

“Following these experts will help you learn about these early signals of change that is ultimately going to impact your particular function, your organization, and your society,” Gohar explained.

Cultivate uniquely human skills, such as collaboration, communication, empathy, critical thinking and problem-solving. These are “things that AI will have more difficulty automating and that’s where we, as humans, can develop a competitive advantage against AI and machines in the future.”

About the Author

Kathryn Marchocki
Kathryn Marchocki is an award-winning journalist based in New England.