Humans Are Underrated (2015), Geoff Colvin - Book Summary

How will the rapid development of computers in the world affect our work in the future? In Humans are Underrated (2015), Geoff Colvin explored the ways in which computers will surpass us and the problems they will never surpass humans. He shares the skills you should build to stay economically viable and how you can turn the tech monster to your advantage.

Who should read this book?

  • Anyone interested in future technology;
  • Employees fear they will be replaced by a computer;
  • Those who want to hone their skills to ensure future applicability.

Author of the book?

Geoff Colvin is a journalist, broadcaster, author, and speaker. He is the author of critically acclaimed books such as The Upside of the Downturn   and Talent Bestseller . He studied at Harvard and received a Master of Business Administration from New York University.

Don't compare yourself to a computer, because you will lose.

According to Moore's law, information technology systems increase the computing capacity of computers by 100% every two years. In the long run, this is a huge development.

For example, Sony's first transistor radio had five transistors and didn't fit in a pocket. Today, Intel's latest processors have five billion transistors and it's small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

Is that why computers will become more and more powerful?

Not really. Eventually Moore's law will come to an end due to absolute physical limitations: you can only put a finite number of transistors in a given interval. But until that happens, don't rush to compare your mental power with a computer.

In fact, today computers can surpass us in tasks that we used to think only humans could do.

For example, computers can recognize emotions more effectively than humans. Paul Ekman, a renowned psychologist, discovered micro-expressions: a minimum of 40 movements in your facial muscles that lead to a certain expression. After years of research, Ekman found out of 3,000 different micro-expressions, which one is connected to which human emotion. As a result, he created the Face Action Coding System .

Here's how it works: If you feed all this emotional data into a computer equipped with a camera and point the camera at a human face, the computer can accurately detect 85% of emotions at real time. there. While humans, even with training, only get it right 55% of the time.

Technology is changing us more than we think – but in a bad way.

Have you ever thought about how your mobile phone or tablet problem affects you?

It turns out that using phones, computers, and other screen-enabled devices reduces our social skills.

In today's world, people easily spend hours sitting in front of a computer screen. The problem occurs when we spend a lot of time glued to the screen of a phone or computer, making social skills worse and worse, like understanding body language or real emotions.

In fact, when sixth-graders in the re-education camp did not use any electronic products for just five days, researchers found a significant increase in the children's expressions of affection. . They ran two more tests to verify the results, and after each this became even more apparent when looking at the statistics.

But what about social media? Don't they bring us closer together?

Is not. It turns out that social networks are not, after all, as social as we think. Originally, humans evolved to be sociable to connect with a community that could protect and provide for them.

But today, we stay at home and still be able to stay connected from our computers and find food right in the fridge. Although at first glance this development may seem revolutionary, it is actually the opposite.

For example, one study found that American teenagers who are heavily using social media are less likely to have good relationships with their parents or friends and are less happy. This may be because social networking is less effective than in-person or phone connections. Another reason could be that people using social media often become less trustworthy and it affects their relationships.

So while computers improve our lives in many ways, we should be careful when using them, especially as social skills like empathy become increasingly important.

“Social media users are less and less trusted than non-IT users.”

All social skills are becoming an asset more important than knowledge for people.

An old proverb says: Knowledge is power. Nowadays, knowledge is increasingly stored in computers, you don't need to remember much in your head.

We must change our main focus from acquiring conventional knowledge to learning unique human abilities such as social skills.

Look at a lawyer: She possesses skills ranging from the ability to analyze the situation of a lawsuit to finding strategies to enhance her position, and it all takes a lot of time. and money. But now computers can analyze millions of cases and find all the supporting documents in just one click. The computer can even predict the outcome that the supreme court decides more accurately than a legal expert!

So we don't need a lawyer anymore?

We desperately need them, but their focus is shifting to other skills that computers can't replace: social skills. It is about building, connecting emotionally with customers, and acting in the best interests of customers.

But there's another reason why social skills are more important than ever.

When the whole world is connected, people from all cultures will be interacting more and more with each other. An unusual act can be taken as a profound insult and, if placed in the wrong circumstances, can be deadly.

For example, during the war in Iraq in 2004, an American sailor drove too close to the third holiest site in Shia Islam - the Imam Ali mosque, and caused a commotion. If soldiers knew better, they could avoid conflict.

But when harnessed, these social skills become extremely powerful. A few weeks earlier, a group of American soldiers were surrounded in anger by hundreds of Iraqis. But instead of attacking them, the soldiers, using their understanding of the local culture, knelt down and pointed their guns at the ground. This use of simple body language calmed the Iraqi people, calmed the situation, and they withdrew in peace.

People always require skills in empathy.

Have you ever been uncomfortable talking to a counselor from a service center over the phone? Part of that is because they often stick to dry, rigid scenarios instead of really empathizing with your problem.

We find this uncomfortable because empathy is fundamental to relationships – even in business.

In fact, empathy – understanding what others are feeling – is becoming more and more important in every sector of the economy. Whether you're a doctor or a service counselor, empathy is the first step to building meaningful relationships.

For example, consider how American Express is applying empathy in business. When Jim Bush was put in charge of AmEx's call center, he threw away all the scripts. Instead, each staff member receives each customer's individual information and can conduct the conversation as comfortable as he or she feels. This has increased customer review scores, increased profit rates, and reduced staff energy consumption by 50%.

And the good news is that empathy is a human skill that can never be replaced by a computer.

Empathy involves two things: understanding the thoughts and feelings of others, and responding appropriately. For example, an empathetic doctor will try to understand what the patient is going through and give appropriate levels of concern.

And this is our distinct advantage over computers.

We just try to accept sympathy in the strongest terms from our friend, so no matter how meticulously a computer responds to our problems, we will never be convinced.

“Customers will immediately realize if the service professional really cares about them.”

Connecting team members is becoming more important in everything from golf to business.

Have you ever worked in a team but things didn't go well together?

While everyone on the team can bring great skills, personality differences are hard to reconcile.

So what determines the success of a team? While many factors such as membership, stability or fair compensation are all important, they are not as important as social sensitivity – in other words, your social skills. subject.

Consider the 2008 US golf team. Their coach, Mr. Paul Azinger, wants to assemble a team to win the Ryder Cup. In previous years, the United States had lost five out of six tournaments because the players on the team couldn't get along. So Azinger tried a new approach: instead of picking the players with the best skills, he picked those with the best personalities to team up with. He made sure that every single player would feel comfortable and understood the members of his team. And results? They won one of America's biggest victories in 25 years.

Scott Fitzgerald once said, “No great idea is born in a conference,” but today, he could be wrong. Being able to work together in a team is really important to the success of any organization.

In the world, scientific research is the work that benefits the most from the teamwork solution. This system allows each member to specialize in their own topics, helping them to enter new areas faster.

Teamwork is also important in the business world. In addition to the chief executive officer, there is often a team that runs the business such as chief financial officer (a position created in the 1970s) and chief information officer (a product of the 1980s), as well as the role of chief information officer. of many other individuals. Today, team formation is a necessity for success.

A good story is more convincing than logic.

We have left the cinema after seeing a movie with such great content that it moved us to tears.

But did you know that if you can tell such a good story it will be more persuasive to people than a dry logical judgment and your story can thus change the lives of millions of people. ?

Stephen Denning, World Bank Africa director. He realized that the World Bank possessed a great deal of information on important issues like malaria. If Zambian health workers could access this information, they would be able to use it to save millions of lives.

At first Denning tried to convince his colleagues of the idea with a dozen logic arguments, diagrams and slides, but they still paid no attention. So he tried the new approach, telling his colleagues the story of a health worker in Zambia who logged into the World Bank's website to access all the information on malaria.

The problem is: the employee cannot access the information. Thus, despite the enormous amount of information the World Bank holds, it has done nothing to make a difference. This story led to a change in World Bank strategy and ultimately millions of lives were saved.

Denning cleverly used a skill where humans absolutely have an advantage over computers: he told a good story.

The story exists to “move people to change”, and a computer-told story will never achieve this because it lacks realism. We humans want to know and judge a story through a narrator, and a computer-told story is often suspicious. Although computers have become commonplace in story writing in recent years, from simple reports of sports matches to more complex stories they still can't beat humans.

Computers can also be creative, but the real breakthroughs come from human interaction.

Have you ever cooked a dish whose recipe was invented by computer? If not, try it as soon as you get the chance!

Computers can indeed be creative, and cooking is a prime example.

IBM (US IBM Computer Company) taught their supercomputer Watson to be the ultimate creative chef. At first, Watson scanned thousands of existing recipes and whole food combinations, such as tomatoes and oregano. The machine is "nourished" with the chemical composition of thousands of ingredients. It is then asked to create recipes.

One of the finished products is the Austrian Chocolate Burrito – consisting of a wonderful blend of minced beef, dark chocolate, grated edamame, almond flour and cheese. The cake was sold in a food truck at the Southwestern Austin festival and people loved it.

It is clear that computers have increasingly proven themselves to be able to perform creative tasks later on. But it seems that the real creative breakthrough is still created by human interaction.

Take a look at innovative companies like Apple, Google, and Pixar. They actively encourage creativity by increasing the random interaction among employees – interactivity that makes innovation boom.

For example, Google serves delicious food in their canteen. This makes everyone go there. When standing in line, people often start chatting with colleagues with whom they normally have little interaction. There are also long tables instead of small ones, which increases the likelihood of sitting next to someone you don't know.

Then there were Steve Jobs' methods: he designed Pixar's headquarters as a conference center where everyone could interact. And at Apple, he's known for his face-to-face, face-to-face meetings, allowing people to directly contribute ideas.

“Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings or random debates.”

Steve Jobs

Harness the power of computers to enhance your knowledge and social skills.

As you have seen in this book, humans are still superior to computers in many areas. But what's even more exciting is that computers can help us excel.

Take education for example: it turns out that learning on a computer is more effective than learning in a crowded classroom.

For example, the US Navy uses software to teach students how to repair technical systems on board ships, a purely knowledge-based task without any human interaction.

At Stanford University, in 2011 when the first massive open online course on artificial intelligence (MOOC) launched, people were invited to follow it from their homes all over the world. In the end, about 160,000 students from 190 countries signed up, but the biggest shock was that the top 400 high achievers weren't class elites – they were online participants.

There's even a way to learn the important social skills that make you successful these days by simply using software.

For example, there is software called “Love Machines” that helps employees build better social skills by encouraging them to interact with each other. With that software, you can send your thanks to your kind colleague. Its tendency is for all other employees to be able to see your thank you note. The aim is to encourage employees not to hide and protect their knowledge, but instead to share and help others.

Therefore, your thank you has motivated everyone to help each other. Sometimes it even develops into a contest to find the best.


The message of the book:

Technological progress is inevitable, it is both a positive development and a negative influence . If we humans want to keep our jobs, we need to increasingly build human skills that computers cannot develop such as empathy and actions to manage the negative effects of work. turmeric.

Give advice:

Use technology to enhance your skills.

Take advantage of the vast range of online learning communities and learn something for free, which will increase your skillset.

For example, you can learn leadership, decision-making or project management skills with thousands of other students, and you may even receive a certificate from the university when you complete the course.

Good quotes:

“As the shift in valuable skills continues, organizations not only realize that they have no jobs for people isolated from the community, but that such people are a danger to business and must be excluded.”

“When the two technological trends of our era combine, technology both taking over many of our jobs and changing us, people skills will be the most valuable thing in this world.”