Need to Know

Model Behavior

Your machines might have a better vision for your business than you do.

by Kate Pavao

Summer 2017

Instead of turning to technology to carry out boring repetitive tasks, you should now embrace your computers as collaborators “who can think and act as knowledge workers,” says Angela Zutavern, vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton and coauthor of The Mathematical Corporation. “And that doesn’t just have implications for technology; it changes the fundamental fabric of an organization.” Here’s what you need to know.


On the robot takeover: Some of the jobs that people are performing today will shift to machines. In 40 out of the 50 states, the number-one job is truck driver. With automated vehicles coming, that job will most certainly go through a major shift toward machine intelligence. Even doctors, when interpreting and diagnosing conditions, will move away from relying on their schooling and knowledge to becoming collaborators with machines and interpreters of models.

On the bright side: Overall, there will clearly be an increase in jobs and the demand for the things that people are good at. Machine intelligence and the breakthroughs that are going on now will absolutely create more jobs than exist today. They will launch new companies, and they will launch entirely new industries.

On smarter machines: Data lakes and cloud computing are enabling people to store and analyze historical data better than they were able to in the past.

Machine intelligence can give you answers to questions that you haven’t even thought of.”

Machine intelligence can give you answers to questions that you haven’t even thought of. There are things that a computer can comprehend that are beyond our understanding. We are moving from a time when people would look at the past to interpret what that meant for the future and moving toward the true predictive power of machines, where people take action based on the results.

On combining datasets: This is where the power really comes from. In many cases, the more datasets, the better and the more diverse they are, the better. Even when the leaders we interviewed didn’t intuitively think a certain dataset was relevant—such as retailers or hotel chains using weather data to predict travel patterns—sometimes the computer uncovered surprises that people couldn’t anticipate.

9.8 million
The net loss of US jobs by 2027 due to jobs replaced—and created—by automation and related technologies (Source: Forrester)

On open minds: NASA is creating an artificially intelligent robot doctor to treat people once they are living on Mars. I love this example because if you don’t believe people living on Mars is possible, you’re certainly not going to devote your career to creating an AI robot doctor to treat them. And the goal is not just to treat diseases and conditions that we run across today; it’s for the robot to learn what conditions might develop on other planets.

On new leadership: You want to shatter your constraints about what strategies you use and what you think is possible. You also want to shatter as many technology constraints as you can. You’ll never throw out your judgment or your mental models in favor of machine models. Instead, collaborating with machines is really about opening your eyes to the new possibilities that such collaborations can provide.

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