Eric Schmidt: People make the world go round. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)
There’s plenty of consternation about artificial intelligence replacing many jobs and roles across the economic spectrum, — from salespeople to truck drivers to doctors. It’s worth mentioning, however, that market dominance will go to those innovators — human innovators, that is — who can assemble AI and machine learning-based components to move products and services more efficiently to customers. Successful entrepreneurs from this point forward will be maestros who can lead an AI symphony.
The people who know how to put this all together will make the world go round. While AI is making many world-changing accomplishments possible — from self-driving cars to biological breakthroughs — none of this is possible without motivated, involved people. This is where too many companies still fall flat.
Eric Schmidt, former chairman of Alphabet/Google, knows a thing or two about the power of motivated, talented people. Speaking at the recent McKinsey BLINK Conference in the United Kingdom, he stated that all the data in the world won’t matter without the right talent.
He even shot down the conventional wisdom that having a wealth of data will put a company ahead of the game. With evolving AI solutions, large caches of data may not be required. “There’s a great deal of research on how to build algorithms using much less data than is currently required,” he explained. “This notion that he or she who has the most data wins is ultimately going to be a temporal phenomenon.”
If not data, what will give companies the edge in an intensely competition digital landscape? “What we’ll discover is that he or she who has the smartest engineers developing the smartest algorithms is the one who will win,” he says.
This power flows from people “who are willing to take risks and drive societal change,” he continues. “Exceptional people are the ones who change society. They’re just born different and are insanely capable—and they’re rare. Thanks to the internet and the fact that about half the people in the world have a smartphone, we can reach these people in a way we couldn’t before.”
Exceptional AI innovators won’t just come out of IT departments, either. A recent Gartner analysis finds the strongest demand for AI talent hasn’t come from the IT department, but rather, from other business units in the organization. Though the IT department’s need for AI talent has tripled between 2015 and 2019, the number of AI jobs posted by IT is still less than half of that stemming from other business units, the consultancy reports. Non-IT AI postings grew by 74% between 2015 and 2019, Gartner analysts state — compared to 36% growth in IT-related positions.
This points to the increasing impact AI is having on the way business is conducted — and the fact it is opening up opportunities that are only limited by imagination. Machines will not dominate the future — people with imagine will.