Maintaining Humanity in an Increasingly Robotic, Automated A.I. World
I have been slow to accept that, from a service perspective, humans will ever be replaced by computers.
I’ve suggested that customers will resist “robots” and I’ve based my thinking in part on the “uncanny valley” hypothesis which postulates that the more robots look like humans the less humans will feel comfortable with them.
I am starting to rethink my assumptions and my conclusion. While humans may not be fully replaceable, I do believe artificial intelligence and robots will displace a lot of service providers. Here are a couple harbingers of the future…
Café X is now open in Hong Kong and San Francisco. It’s a robotic coffee shop where you can place your order on your phone or on an in-store tablet. You can select your drink of choice and even your desired locally roasted coffee beans. Twenty-five to 55 seconds later you have your “robot-crafted” beverage in your hand, thanks to a code sent to your phone which allows you to collect your drink. (To see CafeX in action click here)
Staying in the coffee category and bridging between humans and bots, this week Starbucks announced it is launching voice ordering capabilities within the Starbucks mobile iOS app from the Amazon Alexa platform.
According to the press release “Select customers can now order coffee ‘on command’ using My Starbucks® barista as part of an initial feature rollout integrated seamlessly into the Starbucks mobile app for iOS. At the same time, the company is launching a Starbucks Reorder Skill on the popular Amazon Alexa platform. Both features allow customers to order from Starbucks simply by using their voice….Previously announced at Starbucks Investor Day, My Starbucks® barista, is powered by groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence (AI) for the Starbucks® Mobile App. The integration of the feature within the mobile app allows customers to order and pay for their food and beverage items simply by using their voice. The messaging interface allows customers to speak or text just as if they were talking to a barista in-store, including modifying their beverage to meet their personal preference.” To see the “My Starbucks®” barista in action click here)
Ok, so what can you do to maintain humanity in an increasingly robotic, automated, and artificially intelligent world?
In a word – CARE!
While many service functions can be automated to increase speed, efficiency, and consistency – I will stand firm that there will always be a need for people who add uniquely human value through compassionate listening and authentic caring.
I will use one last example from the world of coffee to demonstrate my point. It involved a drive-thru interaction between a team of Dutch Bros baristas and a customer who was having a difficult day shortly after the loss of her husband. That Vancouver-based team listened, focused their attention on the woman, and comforted her in ways I doubt robots will ever be able to fully emulate. One moment from that interaction was captured on a mobile phone by another customer and the picture went viral. News stories about the compassionate service followed. (To see more on human service intelligence in action click here).
How are you maintaining the relevance of your human service? Will Artificial Intelligence prevail over Human (emotional) intelligence?
I may have to yield ground to robots but I won’t concede that which is uniquely human!
Retirement Planning Has Its Limits: How to Prepare
Retirement planning is one of the issues that commonly leads clients to consult financial advisers. One of its essential aspects is creating a plan to save and invest in order to provide a comfortable retirement income. Ideally, this starts many years ahead of retirement, even as early as your first paycheck.
As retirement comes closer, planning for it expands to take in a host of other considerations, such as deciding when to retire, where to live, and what kind of lifestyle you hope to have. When retirement becomes a reality, the focus shifts to carrying out the plan.
All of this planning is crucial. Yet, for both financial advisers and clients, it's good to keep in mind that planning has its limits. In the post-retirement years, it may be helpful to think in terms of preparing for old age rather than planning for it.
The older we get, the more important this distinction between planning and preparing becomes. Too many life-changing things can happen without regard to our best-laid plans. Often they occur unexpectedly, resulting in emergency situations where urgent decisions have to be made. A stroke or a fall, a diagnosis of terminal illness, a broken hip that leaves someone unable to go back to independent living—and suddenly, right now, the family needs to find an assisted living facility, arrange for live-in help, or sell a home.
What are some of the ways to prepare for these contingencies?
- Explore housing options well ahead of time. Find out what assisted living, home care, and nursing home services and facilities are available where you live and whether they have waiting lists. Have family conversations about possibilities like relocating or sharing households.
- Research the financial side of these options. Investigate the cost of hiring help at home, assisted living facilities, and nursing care centers. Find out what is and is not covered by Medicare and long-term care insurance. For example, people are sometimes surprised to learn that Medicare does not pay for nursing home care other than short-term medical stays.
- Designate someone to take over decision-making, and do the paperwork. Execute documents like a living will, medical power of attorney, and contingent power of attorney. Update them as necessary, and give copies to your doctors, your financial planner, and appropriate family members.
- Start relatively early to downsize. Well before you're ready to let go of possessions or move into smaller housing, start considering what to do with your "stuff." Focus on the decisions rather than the distribution. There's no need to get rid of possessions prematurely, but decide what you want to do with them—and put in writing. Do this while it's still your choice, rather than something your family members do while you're in the hospital or nursing home
- Do your best to practice flexibility and acceptance. No matter how strongly you want to live in your own home until the end of your life, for example, it may not be possible. The physical limitations of aging can limit our choices, and even the best options available may not be what we would like them to be. It is a profound gift to yourself and your family members to accept these realities with as much grace as you can muster.
Finally, please don't underestimate the importance of planning financially for retirement. Because the bottom line is that you can't plan for all the things that might happen as you age, but you can prepare to deal with them. One of the most useful tools to cope with those contingencies is having enough money.
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