Communicating with empathy might be the most important skill you can master.
Why so? Because it’s quite possible that machines are going to be dramatically better at almost – almost – everything else, and maybe much sooner than we expect.
What we know for sure is that artificial intelligence (AI) is already very much woven into our daily Waze, Nest, Google, and Alexa-enhanced lives. Where machines’ dominance was once confined to logical and mathematical intelligence, we now have examples of machines thriving spatially (autonomous automobiles) and linguistically (Watson, the Jeopardy! winning computer).
Some argue AI’s capabilities are improving steadily. Others argue that a precipitous tipping point is approaching. They see a world where the algorithms will be able to improve themselves very, very rapidly (think thousands of years of human progress every day).
I find all that both fantastically interesting and terrifying.
Political economist David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage argued that a country does best overall in global markets by focusing on producing whatever it has a competitive advantage producing. In other words, focus on the nation’s greatest natural strengths. As human beings, we might want to borrow that theory to keep from becoming superfluous among intelligent machines.
As I look to the future, I’m betting that focusing on the ability to connect to others will continue to be highly valued in the professional world.
Connection requires a deep understanding of other people. And understanding starts with empathetic communication. AI may have a role to play, even here, but when it comes to connection, our human-ness gives us a competitive advantage.
Apart from the economic utility of this strategy, connection with others is where I find the greatest joy and beauty in life.
Indeed, for me, it’s why we are here in the first place.