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I’m Writing a TIP Column! Crash Course in I-O Technology

2016 May 5

The explosive growth of new technology is fundamentally changing I/O psychology, and we are not in general well-prepared to respond to it! Technology is not why most I/O psychologists went into I/O psychology!

To help fix this, I’m the writer of a brand new column in The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist called Crash Course in I-O Technology. In each issue, I’ll be “demystifying” a technology that people are encountering in the field and academia, and collecting reactions from I/Os in the field, to get the real story on who really needs this tech and why.

Will it fundamentally change everything we know about I-O, is it just old wine in new bottles, or perhaps somewhere in the middle? Let’s find out!

To that end, I’m asking I-O practitioners, academicians, and students (you!) to provide in the survey linked below some examples of technologies that you have encountered in the field, heard about in practice, or have to deal with on a daily basis – yet if someone asked you to explain precisely what that technology was or how it worked, you don’t really have a great answer.  Perhaps you’re the expert on this topic, but none of the other I-Os you work with are.  Perhaps you needed to hire a random person into your organization’s IT function to run some kind of weird software that no one else understands!  Whatever it is, I want to know the I-O technology you’re dealing with!

The most popular answers in this survey are very likely to be the topics I write about in Crash Course, so think carefully!

If you’re willing to help me out with this (thanks!) please complete this quick 2-question survey:

I’m looking to have answers collected before Friday May 13 (first writing deadline’s coming up!), so please complete it before then!

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  1. Joshua Pearman permalink
    July 16, 2016

    Dear Professor Landers,

    Sorry about leaving this here, but I was uncertain as to how to attempt communicating with you through other methods.

    I’ve been reading up on the impact that A.I. will have as it continues to grow smarter, particularly in how it’ll influence the concept of work itself.

    For example, in articles like “So what happens when robots make jobs themselves obsolete?”, by Ryan Holmes, the author describes the potential for A.I. to wipe out blue collar and white collar jobs, to the point where the concept of a basic income is being discussed again.

    There are predictions of how A.I. will be the next great “industrial revolution” of sorts and will be the dominant worker at the end of the next 20 years, thereby influencing the economy and the idea of work.

    Now, these claims may just be an exaggerated reaction to some of the recent devleopments in A.I. technology. Security flaws, cultural issues, and many other problems with a society reliant on A.I. to work are too vast to say anything is guaranteed right now. Predictions are predictions.

    However, as an I-O, what’s your opinion on the role of A.I. in the future of work? Your experience with technology and involvement with research in adapting technology to the workplace(the TNT Lab) provides an interesting insight to all of this.

    Here is the article I referenced, as well as a few others recommended on medium:

  2. Joshua Pearman permalink
    July 16, 2016

    To clarify my question a littler further:
    Basically, there are three groups. A.I., workers, and I-O psychologists.
    What will be the future of humans in a potentially A.I.-dominated workplace?
    Will A.I. develop to the point where that might be a concern?
    And if so, what would the role of an I-O psychologist be in this kind of future?

    • July 17, 2016

      That’s super-vague, but I will try. 🙂

      AI will absolutely replace all human jobs, at some point. But I think it is unlikely to completely replace humans in either of our lifetimes. AI in its current form is nowhere near the capacity or efficacy of a human brain. It is at best able to recreate and mimic well-defined processes, and this is can do quite well, sometimes better than humans can. Driverless cars are a great example of then, but remember that Google has spent more than a trillion dollars on this technology. And that is just to mimic and recreate one skill with well-defined tasks. There are hundreds of thousands of skills used to support the “knowledge economy,” each of which would require this sort of investment to get at the current level of human performance with current technology. It’s not worthwhile, and it is unlikely to be for a very long time. Until true thinking machines exist, which I’d guess are a century off at least, there’s going to be a big gap.

      That said, jobs with much less complex skills – blue collar jobs as you call them – can be much more easily automated. So these will be first, and that will come much sooner. We’re already seeing cashiers being replaced in some McDonalds today, for example. But that is because “value” is one of the primary competitive advantages for a McDonalds. The cheaper the food is, the better their sales. But there are many restaurants and restaurant-goers for whom value is not the primary concern.

      This sort of industry-by-industry consideration is what will need to happen. Some will be affected majors, others not at all, and I think the Oxford study mentioned in those Medium posts is probably right – about half of all jobs will be affected in some way. But importantly, when this happened in the industrial revolution, jobs being eliminated ultimately caused new jobs to be created in other sectors, to support the new shape of those jobs in various ways. One current example – right now, we’re facing a significant deficit in people trained adequately in cybersecurity. Hundreds of thousands of open jobs that we can’t fill right now, and those jobs are already automated as much as they can be. These are humans needed to support the AI in place to battle cyberthreats, themselves often AI-driven, and precisely because our defensive AI is limited, flesh and blood are needed.

      Humans are going to remain a major part of organizational functioning for a long time, and as long as they are, I/O will play a critical role.

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