It doesn’t take much reading to see that artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly upending our ideas of which activities need to be performed by living, breathing humans. From data analytics to content creation, big businesses and fledgling entrepreneurs alike are experimenting with a wide variety of ways to use AI to cut costs and bolster their bottom line.
But even with the seeming rush to use artificial intelligence, the value of human-to-human contact cannot be overlooked — especially in those activities that involve direct interaction with the end consumer.
Turning over your business to robots may seem like a more efficient option, but neglecting human-to-human interactions could ultimately hurt your business in the long run.
Many people prefer human interaction over AI
Notably, even with more people being willing to use artificial intelligence, the vast majority aren’t ready to give up on human contact. For example, a study from Faye Travel Insurance found that while 18% of travelers prefer to use a virtual travel assistant, 23% prefer working exclusively with a human travel agent — and 51% prefer to use both options.
As this study shows, more often than not, artificial intelligence is being used as a supplemental form of assistance (if it is being used at all) because people still want some form of human help and connection.
Another example comes from an article published by the University of British Columbia School of Social Work, which notes that while AI has helped offer more resources in the field of social work, many people in need of mental and emotional support are putting a premium on getting assistance from living, breathing people.
Notably, the article cites the experience of a computer programmer who had access to an online support bot to help address trauma related to a motor vehicle accident. The patient didn’t use the support bot or his online support group because, as he explained, “I prefer talking to real people.”
Neither of these examples is meant to downplay the fact that many people do use AI for these and other activities — and sometimes prefer it to getting human help. But in an increasingly digital society, the vast majority of people still want some type of human-to-human connection in some aspect of their lives.
Whether it comes down to trust, personal preference or the need for emotional attachment, there is no denying that people want real, meaningful interaction with other human beings. Even in a recent survey that found that 73% of consumers believe AI can positively impact the customer experience, 77% still said “an element of human touch” was needed to create positive experiences.
AI cannot replace real, human innovation
Writing for The New York Times, columnist David Brooks notes that while AI is poised to provide tools for outsourcing mental work, it also lacks several traits that are inherently human — things that AI can’t truly replicate. As Brooks explains, AI can’t produce a distinct personal voice, true creativity, unusual worldviews, empathy or situational awareness.
These uniquely human attributes are especially vital when dealing with individuals — whether they be an employee or a customer. Artificial intelligence may be good at identifying patterns and trends, but it is not equipped to form a meaningful, authentic emotional relationship with an individual.
In his column, Brooks was advising college students on the skills they should develop to set themselves apart as they start their careers. But these same attributes are certainly valuable to entrepreneurs and their businesses as well. Unusual worldviews and creativity are often defining attributes of entrepreneurs that help them develop new ideas to revolutionize industries.
Of course, such attributes become even more valuable when working with other human partners to generate ideas and solve problems. For example, brainstorming is often cited as a valuable business activity because it forces decision-makers to consider different points of view and avoid groupthink. It encourages critical thinking as people share and evaluate their ideas and perspectives.
Most importantly, it builds a sense of cohesion as multiple people come together to collaborate and work on a solution. AI can certainly help in this process, such as by helping predict the outcomes of different actions or decisions. But it is unlikely to bring that same energy to the room that you get when going through the work with other people. And its own ideas and output, while they may be useful, aren’t going to be as creative or unique as what your own team might come up with.
Don’t forget to be human
Can AI tools help your business become more efficient? Absolutely. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you should go all-in on trying to automate every last activity. People crave real, human communication and contact. There are many things that machines can do, but it’s important to remember they can’t replace genuine human contact.
In a day when so many are rushing to use artificial intelligence, remembering to be human could be what helps set your business apart. As you learn to use AI to supplement your efforts while still maintaining a strong focus on the human element that you and your team members have to offer, you can unlock new opportunities and ideas while providing the connection that we all so desperately need.