How can you win in the new AI economy?

According to AC Nielsen, an average adult spends more than 2 hours per day interacting with social media apps. User-friendly mobile and web interfaces make it very easy to consume and disseminate information. Such activities do not require a lot of skill or attention to accomplish. Contrast that to a detail-oriented profession that requires lot of focus – For example, Financial auditors need to ensure compliance with established internal control procedures by examining records, reports, operating practices, and documentation; or, an insurance underwriter who needs to analyze risk in insurance proposals, determine policy terms and calculate premiums based on actuarial and background information.

Activities that require creativity and human instinctive judgements are defensible, a.k.a, cannot be replicated or replaced by AI easily. It entails the ability to be an expert at something and crank out quality output.

Clearly, value-added activities are defensible, a.k.a, cannot be replicated easily. This is nicely articulated in Cal Newport’s book – ‘Deep Work‘ that emphasizes on two core abilities to be successful in the new economy:

  1. Ability to quickly master hard things
  2. Ability to produce at an elite level in terms of quality and speed

Underwriting is a great example to illustrate above points – Working with customers to understand their coverage needs and offering products requires a good pulse of the markets as well as working within the actuarial framework to arrive at mutually agreeable terms (and premium). Such tasks cannot be easily codified. On the same note, an underwriter may consider delegating administrative tasks that may not be the best use of his/her time – this allows focusing on high values tasks – say identifying risks and determining policy terms – without having to compromise on quantity – say, the number of policies they can work on.

While there are low cognitive demand tasks in underwriting that are ‘automatable’, the regulatory and complex aspects of insurance products need creative and judgmental abilities that are far from being vulnerable to AI.

Cal Newport also discusses in his book about three categories of winners – the subject of the book is the third category – ‘Superstars in their field of work’. These rockstars are experts at performing cognitively demanding and hard-to-replicate skills.

So that brings us to the questions for thriving in the new AI economy – Does your skill require the engagement of your cognitive capabilities? Are there creative and social aspects to your profession that will be difficult for machines to replicate? Perhaps a more important question to ask is … Are you better off if AI took over your routine tasks so that you could focus on higher value-added activities?

Thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed this article. Are there any perspectives on skills in the new AI economy that you would like to share?

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Gopikrishna Aravindan

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