Although Friedman saw the intellectually elevating opportunity in full access to sharing and collaboration, it seems that many social collaboration tools are vastly underutilized. At work we regularly connect via Slack or Yammer but it’s more about quick answers to technical questions. People seeking counsel on how to be better leaders is extremely rare. However, because people have broad access to information subordinates can research and identify problems with both their leaders and their organization leaving them potentially disaffected.
Friedman also discussed the importance of learning what he calls right brain skills – those which cannot be duplicated by a computer - and explores various ways to get the brain engaged in this higher order learning. So much has happened in the AI space in subsequent years that Bostrom (2015) indicated that we on the verge of something major. Rather than reinforcing Friedman’s assumption that our right brain skills cannot be duplicated, Bostrom recognized the speed at which AI machine learning is progressing. He pointed out that algorithms can learn cross domain and speculated that a human level of intellectual processing may be reached and surpassed in 40 years. Bostrom calls this superintelligence and it would seem to contradict Friedman’s assumption that human creativity is not replicable by AI.
What does this mean for creativity and innovation? Speaking about just those topics, Richard Florida argued that the world is spiky rather than flat in his 2005 article from the Atlantic. His research suggests that population concentration tends to lead to greater wealth and innovation. Because the web connects people, ideas and finance, I wonder if it might minimize the impact of physical proximity. Could access to a free and open internet possibly become even more important to generating innovation than concentration of wealth and people? Florida argued that most success comes from generating innovation and pointed out the power of innovation to attract talent and create new products and industries. Departments within my company who are innovation powerhouses do attract many people. However, their connection is often entirely virtual, as it is with many of my partners. Given the current approach, could access to the internet become the key differentiator rather than location and locus of wealth and population? It seems that innovative people will not need to leave their locale to go to another city/place because they can collaborate effectively from anywhere.
And possibly your collaborator is not even human. To this end Bostrom pointed out that the optimization process demands we use every available means to efficiently pursue a goal. Individual humans are connecting and optimizing as never before through the web. This connectivity represents an intelligence external to our own; one which represents one form of AI. Bostrom believes we are on the precipice of a rapidly changing, different world; one where we are regularly surrounded by non-human intelligence, AI. He warns that we are fooling ourselves to think we could simply turn off this switch. Sharing Bostrom’s sense of urgency not only in recognizing the change is happening but also in ensuring society is doing all it can to ensure AI development is factoring in ethical elements a group of tech billionaire’s including Reid Hoffman and Elon Musk are establishing funds focused on overseeing value-centric AI development .
This change is happening and it alters many aspects of how we approach work; consider the 34 Japanese employees in who have just been replaced by Watson style AI. From Friedman’s liberating view of shared information, to Florida’s contention that opportunities for innovation are lopsided to Bostrom’s assertion that AI may be calling more of the shots in our lifetimes ... it is clear that the terrain is evolving. There is still relevancy in parts and pieces of Friedman and Florida. However, there is less relevancy in their holistic arguments because as Bostrom points out the inadequacy of trying to understand or explain today’s world through our understanding of the world we knew even five years ago is a futile proposition. We simply cannot perceive the world today through the filters we have used in the past.