As technology races ahead, what will people do better than computers?
What hope will there be for us when computers can drive cars better than humans, predict Supreme Court decisions better than legal experts, identify faces, scurry helpfully around offices and factories, even perform some surgeries, all faster, more reliably, and less expensively than people? The unavoidable question – will millions of people lose out, unable to best the machine? – is increasingly dominating business, education, economics, and policy.
The answer lies not in the nature of technology but in the nature of humans. Regardless of what computers achieve, our greatest advantage lies in what we humans are most powerfully driven to do for and with one another, arising from our deepest, most essentially human abilities—empathy, creativity, social sensitivity, storytelling, humor, building relationships, and leading. This is how we create value that is durable and not easily replicated by technology – because we’re hardwired to want it from humans.
These high-value skills create tremendous competitive advantage—more devoted customers, stronger cultures, breakthrough ideas, and more effective teams. And while many of us regard these abilities as innate traits—“he’s a real people person,” “she’s naturally creative”—it turns out they can all be developed and are being developed in a range of far-sighted organizations, such as:
- The Cleveland Clinic, which emphasizes empathy training of doctors and all employees to improve patient outcomes and lower medical costs.
- The U.S. Army, which has revolutionized its training to focus on human interaction, leading to stronger teams and greater success in real-world missions.
- Stanford Business School, which has overhauled its curriculum to teach interpersonal skills through human-to-human experiences.
As technology advances, we shouldn’t focus on beating computers at what they do. We’ll lose that contest. Instead, we must develop our most essential human abilities and teach our kids to value not just technology but also the richness of interpersonal experience. They will be the most valuable people in our world because of it. In a transformed economy, Geoff proves that to a far greater degree than most of us ever imagined, we already have what it takes to be great.