Are You Smarter Than a Squirrel?

squirrel-498139_1920I came down to breakfast the other morning and my wife had an exasperated look on her face. When I asked what was wrong, she said, “I just want to be as smart as a squirrel!”

We have multiple bird feeders in our yard, and she has purchased many devices to foil the squirrels’ ability to get to the feeders, but the squirrels always win! One morning I amused myself for an hour by using vegetable oil to grease the metal rods the bird feeders sit on and watching squirrels leap halfway up the pole and slide to the ground. Try it — it’s hilarious! (The oil eventually wears off and they get their prize.)

A question I’ve pondered lately is, “How smart will a CEO have to be to live in the world of artificial intelligence (AI)?” Heck, how smart will any of us have to be? IBM’s Watson is already able to solve complex problems, write poetry and outsmart squirrels. (OK, it’s still working on the squirrels. …)

My interest is much more curiosity than paranoia. After all, Captain Kirk occasionally outwitted Spock, and everything else on Star Trek has seemed to come true!

Although it’s hard to answer the question, “What will the relationship between machines and humans be in the future?” (assuming assimilation doesn’t take place!), it’s reasonable for every CEO to start asking, “How will AI affect my business model?”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or Watson) to understand that automation will continue to displace repetitive tasks, but what happens when AI performs nonrepetitive, creative thinking well?

If that makes your brain hurt, back it off a bit and ask, “What will my business environment look like in five years?”

The fact that you cannot predict the future with complete accuracy doesn’t mean you don’t have an obligation as a leader to ask the question and continue to struggle with the possibilities!

Do you think Spock would’ve found humor in the squirrel sliding down the greased post?

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Recent Comments

  • Lisa Hamaker

    Spock would have been amused by the squirrel, but it would not have shown on his face! I have also pondered the AI question having worked in high-tech for decades and now working for a company that develops an AI based product. I still have the same answer I have had for decades–humans still develop the AI capabilities and machines can only do what we tell them to – so they will never become smarter than human beings.

    To answer the second part of the question, like the machines that Henry Ford developed to build cars that had people nervous about losing jobs, but in the end got them jobs that are less physically demanding–AI powered machines bring a similar process.

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    • Todd Ordal

      Thanks, Lisa. The root of the AI question for me is, what happens (as it will!) when machines can think on their own without programming from us? I’m mostly positive as well, just curious. My more immediate interest is in what happens to existing business models and are enough executive getting ahead of the curve.

      I appreciate your thoughts!

      Cheers

      Todd

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