Say Hello to My Little Friend

4.27.16Heads up, people of Earth: The robots are coming for you. Not you personally – just your job. What happens to you at that point, with your current job gone and no possibility, ever, of a future job, is anybody’s guess.

Whether the threat to our livelihoods is coming from “robots” or “artificial intelligence,” or just the Internet becoming the sentient tail that wags the dog, there seems to be a growing feeling, expressed by writers of blogs, articles, editorials, etc., that it’s a not-if-but-how-soon-and-how-bad scenario. A recent essay in TechCrunch articulates this succinctly: “We now stand on the precipice of a new revolution; we will see the complete automation of professions once thought to be inextricably human-operated when intelligent machines ‘take our jobs.’”

Who – that is, whose jobs – will be spared? In other words, which humans will not be deemed “non-essential personnel” in the brave new world? The title of the TechCrunch piece provides a clue: “The automation revolution and the rise of the creative economy.”

This is a point that many writers covering the subject seem to agree on: No matter how smart or powerful or self-aware those AIs become, creative work (like writing blogs, articles, editorials, etc.) will still be beyond their abilities.

We can now breathe a collective sigh of relief: “Creative” jobs – the work of writers, artists, musicians, actors, and salespeople will remain in human hands. But wait: How did salespeople sneak onto that list?

Top sales performers are typically highly creative – they have to be. The TechCrunch story makes an interesting observation: “There are really only two human enterprises: creation and implementation. We design things, come up with interesting strategies and ideas and then we execute them.” This begins to sound a lot like what all of us in the world of B2B sales are doing every day.

Creation and implementation: Isn’t that how we help customers? And we’ll keep doing that. Robots and AIs, far from crushing our souls as our new overlords, will probably become our new helpers. It’ll be tricky at first, as was sales force automation.

While we’re making that transition, there’s no need to panic. In a survey we conducted recently, roughly 97% of the companies that participated reported that over the next 12 months, they plan to either increase the size of their sales force or keep it at the present size.

I look forward to the day when the long-ago promise of a “PDA” is fulfilled in the form of a true personal, digital, assistant. One that will be smarter than me in many ways and yet, inevitably, dumber than me in many ways. Together, we’ll create and implement stuff. We’ll be a team. We may even be friends. But I’ll be the boss.

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