Will AI succeed in completely replacing humans or will we always need our skills to guide it?
Given the recent progress in improving machine learning and language processing capabilities, artificial intelligence is one of the main topics of discussion today: will it be able to completely replace humans or will we always need our skills to drive it?
As things stand today, some jobs can be done very well by an AI, especially when it comes to ‘disposable’ content, drafts or repetitive tasks that do not require special insight. For other tasks and roles, it is not yet clear to what extent AI will be able to replace human skills.Let’s take the role of the Scrum Master as an example: let’s first see what he is responsible for, and then reflect on the possibility of artificial intelligence being able to take his place.
Scrum Master: serving the team
Within a team that operates according to the Scrum framework, the role of the Scrum Master is to support the team, facilitating it in achieving its objectives. His task is to remove obstacles that could jeopardize the success of a project, ensuring that each member follows the principles and practices of the Agile methodology.
It is therefore not a true leader nor a guide, but a facilitator who makes sure that everything goes as planned, that no conflicts are created or that these are resolved in the best possible way.
What better role for an artificial intelligence than to be at the service of man to effectively remove annoyances and obstacles so that a group can work undisturbed? Yet, it is not that simple.
In order to understand which elements can create disturbances or slow down the work of the team, the Scrum Master needs to understand deeply and at all times what is happening within the team: this is an interactive role, based on the relationships between people.
Characteristics of a good Scrum Master
In addition to technical skills, anyone wishing to become a Scrum Master must necessarily have a number of natural predispositions, which fall within a large family of soft skills called emotional intelligence. One of these predispositions is certainly empathy: in a nutshell, the ability to put oneself in the shoes of others. In particular, it is cognitive empathy that is of great help in this job; to feel what another individual is feeling, to support, accept and act accordingly, providing personalized support to each team member.
Another key characteristic for a Scrum Master is self-awareness. Aristotle argued that knowing oneself is the beginning of all wisdom: the more self-aware we are, the better we can serve others. Knowing who we are determines our actions, as we better understand why we act in a certain way.
However, there are other qualities, even more difficult to define precisely, that make a Scrum Master truly effective: for example, optimism, curiosity and authenticity. If properly trained and developed, these characteristics can make all the difference in who holds this role, and help drive change not only in people but also in the culture of the companies in which they work. After all, a Scrum Master is nothing more than a servant leader.
Curiosity, for example, is the engine of continuous self-improvement. When you are curious, you are passionate, and passion makes you perform at your best. As Albert Einstein said: ‘I have no special talents. I am just passionately curious’.
So, our question now is: can an AI possess or develop what we call Emotional Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence and empathy
We all know that AI has already gone far beyond what could have been imagined only a few years ago, but the fundamental question is whether it will ever be able to adapt its responses and advice to take into account the state of mind of the people it interacts with, just as a Scrum Master understands the individual needs of each member of his team to encourage collaboration.
Let’s try asking artificial intelligence itself, in particular ChatGPT, perhaps the most famous and discussed application today.
Question to ChatGPT: “Can you understand my state of mind right now?”
ChatGPT’s answer: “As a virtual assistant, I cannot directly perceive people’s emotions or moods. I do not have access to information about your current mental or emotional state. My main function is to provide information and answer your questions as best I can.”
It is evident that, at the current moment, AI, although able to take into account an infinite variety of factors and sources, cannot empathise with a human being and truly understand his or her problems, if these are not directly related to a concrete aspect of work. Indeed, it cannot interact with the physical environment in which it finds itself nor sense people’s moods.
An AI will certainly be able to rattle off all the rules of the Scrum framework and recommend the most suitable ones for each situation based on the input data, but will it ever be able to really be a servant leader? Probably not: it is not enough to know the rules of a game inside out to be able to apply them in every situation.
Think of a sport like football: a large part of the population, in front of the television, is able to judge and condemn or extol the strategies and techniques of the players, but very few, on the pitch, would know how to apply them effectively. The rules of Scrum are also quite simple and it is not complicated to learn them by heart, but will an artificial intelligence be able to introduce them to the point of being able to drive a culture change in a company?
The most reasonable answer is that, to date, the complete replacement of human skills by AI appears very difficult, if not impossible. Teams and companies are made up of people, who in turn are a collection of attitudes, emotions, needs and ambitions that an artificial intelligence cannot recognise: it will therefore not be able to take them into account and act accordingly.
The future of AI
It is precisely because AI is not able to grasp all the nuances of human attitudes, communication, and intentions that the task of the new generations will be to learn how to deal with AI in such a way that it serves the human being effectively and truly represents an opportunity for improvement, not by replacing humans but by facilitating them in their work.
Systems combining Natural Language Processing with other technologies, such as Computer Vision and Robotics, could also be developed to allow AI to take a more active role in the management of work teams.
Will roles such as that of the Scrum Master therefore survive the new reality in which we will find ourselves living as a result of the clearance of artificial intelligence? It is impossible to answer that question today; as things stand, we can only survey the changes day by day, studying and adapting to them, and then focus on the areas where we can make a difference and offer skills and expertise that an application like ChatGPT cannot replicate.
This is perhaps the most effective weapon we have at our disposal to avoid becoming prematurely obsolete. After all, the job of those involved in the software world is just that: to ride change and constantly adapt, so as to make the most of both human potential and machine efficiency.