Careers

A Vulcan salute to Emotional Intelligence

Flying high where machines with ‘a mind of their own’ can only sputter on

Spock appeals to us “earthlings” because he is not fully human. He is half-Vulcan and Vulcans are incapable of emotion. Logic is integral to how they live every aspect of their extra-terrestrial lives. So, our abiding love for this sci-fi half-human half-Vulcan character is actually rooted in our mistrust of “emotion”, our belief that it is an inconvenient roadblock in an otherwise clear course paved with reason.

Today, the obsession with the concept of emotionless and super-efficient ETs seems to have ebbed a bit. For, our own “creations” are as baffling and fascinating as any ETs we may have ever thought up — presenting us with scenarios that were unimaginable not too long ago. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation are the Vulcans in our midst, hardly sci-fi, and growing very real with every passing day.

As they are making their presence felt in most aspects of our life, and doing many of the things we have been doing, a trillion times more quickly and with clinical efficiency, we are now forced to assess our position in relation to these “machines with a mind”.

And the man-automation conflict in terms of jobs has been engaging us for a while now, with the subject registering a spike in interest whenever a new form of machine learning or a robotic-production process hits the headlines. AI is often vilified as a “stealer” of jobs. However, there are any number of studies supporting the view that AI will be replacing the jobs it makes redundant, with newer jobs. In fact, according to these forecasts, there will be more job generation, simply because it takes a lot more to run a heavily “automation-driven” world.

Amidst the uncertainty, everyone agrees that new skill-sets will be required. It may surprise some of us that one of these skill-sets has to do with developing our human side, more precisely our emotional intelligence. Becoming “more human” seems like our ticket to finding our value and an impregnable fortress in this world of vulcans. A recent study by Capgemini Research Institute, titled ‘Emotional intelligence — the essential skillset for the age of AI’ forecasts that “the demand for emotional-intelligence skills will see a six-fold increase, just as a result of the growth of artificial intelligence and automation”.

It is straightforward reasoning: In a world where humans have willingly handed over certain operations to machines for the sake of greater efficiency, humans will end up focusing harder on what only they can do. It includes, ironically, shaping artificial-intelligence technology to work with a sharper mind of its own. And there are certain operational tasks that artificial-intelligence can do now, but can’t be trusted with them – yet. Some of these tasks have to do with areas where insightful decisions may have to be taken, setting aside data that may demand a different course of action.

Beyond data

Kamal Karanth, co-founder, Xpheno, a specialist staffing organisation, illustrates this idea against the backdrop of AI-assisted hiring.

“One of these areas is hiring and promoting people on the basis of potential. AI is today used in hiring, but there are limiting factors that are too obvious to be ignored. Machines can source millions of CVs in no time. If you want to hire from certain kinds of universities, with certain scores, they can do a great job. But they can’t look beyond that data, and identify potential that doesn’t show up in numbers but is present nevertheless. Machines are hailed for their lack of bias, but they may be biased towards certain pre-set data and that may be blurring the real picture. In the future, such wrinkles may be ironed out. But as things stand now, it takes deep human intelligence to rightly see what ‘can be’ despite the available data presenting a picture to the contrary.” There are any number of examples where there is no substitute for emotional intelligence, which in its essence is about awareness about oneself and others that closely meshes with things as they are.

However, as with any intelligence, emotional intelligence will amount to nothing unless it is honed. The afore-mentioned study has recommended that coaching to develop EI skills should not stop with top- and middle-level management employees, but should be extended to employees holding non-supervisory roles.

EI testing

Karanth believes if emotional-intelligence testing is carried out at the hiring process, any later training an organisation undertakes will be a lot easier. “Giving certain standard personality tests is usually mistaken for testing for behaviour patterns. Real behavioural testing is about asking well-framed questions aimed at unmasking patterns in behaviour, and listening carefully to the answers. Again, during background checks, these answers have to be tested for their validity. It is a process that employers have to follow, ideally for very hire. It may be more time-consuming, but it is a process worth going through, if the objective is to build a robust organisation.”

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 9:42:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/careers/a-vulcan-salute-to-emotional-intelligence/article30337281.ece

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