Is Big Data the start of the end for human beings?

By Michelle No comments

A far-fetched blog title I know….but hear me out.

How many times have you asked a question lately and been told to ‘Google’ the answer? It seems that search engines are the answer to everything nowadays.

But can a machine really have all the answers? What happened to gut instinct or common sense?

I was at the SAP Innovation Forum last week and attended one of the sessions being led by SuccessFactors – specialists in HR and Talent Management. A couple of interesting points were raised by the presenter which got me thinking – is big data and the ease of access to information we have at our fingertips today just making us lazy?

The presenter explained that there is a new ‘type’ of individual coming in to the workforce – the millennial (I actually read a stat recently that said there are 80 million of them globally entering the workplace). These millennials, he went on to say, are a breed of their own – they expect answers to come to them and work places are expected to change to suit them.

While I appreciate that technology and social media (as just 2 examples) are changing the way we do things, I am not convinced by the expectation that ‘answers should come to them’. What happened to good old fashioned thinking through our problems and challenges?

Is our ease of access to answers/information from such an early age (you can Google an essay title nowadays at University and the answer will appear) preventing graduates coming into the workforce from being able to think about things logically and solve problems on their own without referring to Google? Is big data creating a culture of laziness in the workforce? A culture where millennials lack common sense because they are handed everything on a plate?

At the same event I also attended a session by futurologist Ray Hammond who explained that the next big ‘technological thing’ will be robots and artificial intelligence. He said that the biggest decision we will make in our life time is what we want our robot to do – be a servant, or be our master. And this got me thinking even more. If millennials are our future, and they are relying on tools like Google for the answers to everything – what new skills do they really bring to the workforce? What do they do that a robot could not?

Of course, I would argue that a robot could never do my job. How could a robot build relationships and develop rapport with clients? How could a robot service our clients and come up with creative ideas in the same way that we do? But there are of course industries that have already replaced humans with robots – manufacturing for example. So, with artificial intelligence getting bigger, and millennials being over-reliant on search engines/machines, are we going to see robots infiltrating people-based industries such as advertising?