What do the next generation of leaders need to do as we approach singularity?


As technology evolves, machine learning is becoming the new tool in the hands of computer scientists, social media and governments. Businesses and healthcare organisations too are increasingly making use of algorithms and automation. But how prepared are we for the next technological boom: the singularity?

The singularity is an idea that was alluded to back in 1965 when the British mathematician Irving defined an ultraintelligent machine as one that “can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever.” 

He said this would be a technological revolution because, “the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities,” and therefore, “the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.”

How far along the path to singularity are we?

The idea that humans could create an AI that is able to create more intelligent AI can sound a little like science-fiction. But machine learning is everywhere now. And jobs that were thought to be too sophisticated for machines are becoming achievable.  

This article in the Guardian is written entirely by an AI, while a robot called Pepper is helping care for the elderly in Japan. Then there’s the robot companion named Mabu who has conversations with patients suffering from chronic illness and gives health advice based upon how the patient answers. 

While there is quite a difference between current levels of machine learning and artificial general intelligence (AGI), which is the required level of machine learning to achieve the singularity that Irving predicted, acceleration may occur faster than we imagine. This is because of the speed at which machines learn once they are given the right starting point.

Stuart J. Russell, a computer scientist and AI expert, says in an interview with Martin Ford that, “once an AGI gets past kindergarten reading level, it will shoot beyond anything that any human being has ever done, and it will have a much bigger knowledge base than any human ever has.” 

Although the top researchers predict this could occur anytime between 2029 and the year 2200, the many forms of lesser AI that precede it will still have a huge impact on the way we live and work.

“Because AI will have language programming it’ll be able to simulate relationship,” says Hilary Harvey, an Associate Partner at TPC UK. “And eventually creative-thinking because it’ll be able to learn. So leaders need to ask: “If there are so many human tasks that AI will be able to do, what are the skills we need to develop for the future?”

The kind of leadership required

Although robots can already simulate a level of emotional intelligence, it is still a simulation. “Leaders need to invest in the key leadership skills of empathy and creative thinking,” says Hilary, “of building relationships, leading others through complexity – and developing a coaching mindset and skills.”

Robots are still a way away from displaying authentic vulnerability to inspire trust. Or interrogating their own unconscious biases to benefit the world around them. Or building meaning and purpose into their leadership systems

In July last year TPC founder Charles Brook wrote, “As more responsibilities are passed into the hands of technology… the world will still need adventurers, dreamers and leaders with the tenacity to take on the status quo…  the emotional intelligence of the internally agile leader will not be replaceable.”

“A smart machine will be always smarter than you are, a machine can never be wiser.” said Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba. ”When smart people learn how to care about others, how to care about the future, how to be human, then a company becomes warm… [it has] soft power. Otherwise, you have a group of gangsters.”

The greatest need for leadership

Artificial Intelligence is “the conversation about the collective future of all of us, so it shouldn’t be limited to AI researchers,” says Max Tegmark, author of Life 3.0. “Leaving aside speculations about superhuman AI, how would you like our tale to begin?”

“We’re facing such huge challenges globally that we need a high level of shared human interconnectivity to tackle them,” says Hilary. “We need a sense that ‘we’re all in this together.’”

“Tech can be a part of the solution – but it needs to be for the good of all, not just the global north… we need to develop qualities that transcend culture.”

As unconscious mindsets hinder leaders from tackling the climate crisis and unconscious biases are finding their way into machine learning [ link to blog 3 of series ]. There is increasing urgency for leaders to access the higher self and to work together. [ could link to UN Global Compact post-event webinars once live ]

And as we look ahead to how AI will change the landscape of leadership, we need to invest in our future global leaders – and we need to learn from them. There are initiatives set up to help us begin this journey, from the Global Shapers to the WYSE foundation, which is supported by TPC Leadership.

The future of leadership will ultimately become what we make it. Whether we reach singularity in a decade or in 150 years, we need to tackle the questions AI poses soon – and we need to tackle them together.

Looking for insight on how to move forward? Get in touch with us to find out how we can help.

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