Humans, Machines And The Future Of Collaboration

The meaning of collaboration has evolved over time. The first email was sent in 1971 and after that, the Internet age completely changed the way we connect and collaborate with each other. Fast forward to today, and we are on the verge of re-defining collaboration between humans and machines. So, what do we do when machines do everything? Ultimately, the answer depends on whether you are a pessimist or an optimist. While it’s true that many types of repetitive jobs will disappear due to automation, a world without work will always be a fantasy. As a result of our fear of losing jobs to automation, we are overlooking the possibility of the human + machine collaboration that has the potential to transform our industries, businesses, workplaces, and jobs. We need to stop looking at humans and machines in contrast to each other and imagine a world of human-machine collaborations, which would be more engaging, fun, and challenging.

We are in an incredible time, when technology is significantly extending the envelope of human capability. While humans are good at the art of the job (judgment, visual cues, emotion/ empathy, ethics, and social context), machines are good at the science of the job (computational capabilities, data analysis, pattern recognition, and next action determination based on all statistical facts). When we combine the strengths of humans with the strengths of machines in a joint environment, magic happens. This human-robot duet perfectly weaves together the art of dance and the science of mechanical engineering. The future of work will be based on how well companies blend and extend the abilities of humans and machines by making them collaborative. Human-machine collaboration is the new hybrid workforce.

So, how can we ensure the transparent communication between humans and machines? How can we translate consumer and employee needs, and business strategies into machine experiences? Who will define roles and responsibilities, and set the rules for how machines and workers should coordinate to accomplish a task? These questions demonstrate the need for a new role that will create augmented hybrid teams to generate better business outcomes through human-machine collaboration. This new role of “Man-Machine Teaming Manager” is highlighted in our new report, 21 Jobs of the Future. The key tasks for this role are to develop an interaction system through which humans and machines mutually communicate their capabilities, goals and intentions, and to devise a task-planning system for human-machine collaboration.

The Man-Machine Teaming Manager will shape the future of work and its various workplaces within companies by turning machines and workers into collaborative “colleagues” in order to reach entirely new performance thresholds. As a teaming manager, you will identify tasks, processes, systems, and experiences that can be upgraded by newly available technologies and you will imagine new approaches, skills, interactions, and constructs. You will design flexible experiences that meet workers’ expectations, while providing a simple and intuitive interaction with machines (translating consumer behavior to business users, as well as to machines, for instance). We have developed an exact job description your HR department will need to fill this new role and advance human-robot cooperation strategies in a dynamic business environment.

In the future workplace, your career potential will no longer be based on your last job title, but instead on your ability to collaborate with machines for the work ahead. At the heart of human-machine collaboration is the simple idea that nearly every person and job, can and must be improved through technology. Whether management likes it or not, leaders who recognize that collaboration is the key to business success will be more desired in the digital workplace. Fostering collaboration is a work skill that will be in great demand in the near future, and your organization must be ready.


On November 30th 2017, the Center for the Future of Work held its inaugural “21 Jobs of the Future” event at the Crosby Street Hotel in lower Manhattan. This is a trailer of “the CFoW takes Manhattan” – a gripping story of a day in the life of the Center for the Future of Work -- and some of the accolades that have come their way since that fateful day. We hope you enjoy!

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Quantum Computing to Redefine Cyber Security Concerns

In our Work AHEAD framework, we speak about discovering and inventing new markets, products and processes to succeed in the fourth industrial revolution. Likewise in cybersecurity, R&D, innovation and blue sky thinking are key to remaining one step ahead of potential threats. For organizations right now quantum computing, which is set to completely redefine how IT work is conducted, will prove to be our next generations defining security concern and grace.

With the arrival of quantum computing, the table stakes will change, and a winner takes all race will emerge.

The impeding exponential leap in processing power that quantum computing will usher in will make current encryption methods obsolete. Today most encryption in the cyber realm uses a technology developed in the 1970’s called public-key cryptography. This type of cryptography is largely secure against computing power available today, but with quantum computing which has the capability to calculate at an exponentially faster rate using quantum bits, than binary (our computers today) processors, this encryption suddenly accounts for very little. For example, the fastest binary computers we have today would take 10,000 years to decrypt some of the longest keys available today but with quantum computing, using Shor’s algorithm, this would take as little as 10 hours . Therefore any hacker armed with this technology would be able to wreak havoc on both national and organizational security with impunity.

But when is the shift to quantum computing going to happen? Some say quantum computers will be commercially available to the public by 2040 but as Bill Gates said in his 1994 book, The Road Ahead "We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” And this has largely held true. For example, the general consensus was that an AI system would not be able to beat a human in a game of extreme logic like Go for at least another 10-20 years. But in 2016 we saw Google’s AlphaGo do just that. So it’s highly likely that we’ll see quantum computers available to the public well before 2040. But even today we are seeing the first quantum computers being used in commercial applications, in support of cybersecurity no less. In January 2017 D-Wave unveiled its D-Wave 2000Q machine and at the same time announced its first customer, cybersecurity firm Temporal Defense Systems. So these machines are appearing, and while the technology is still in its infancy, the signs of what it will usher in are already here.

But with quantum computing, the opportunity to develop new encryption methods becomes a reality. And with the early stage prohibitive cost of these machines ($15 million ) it’s more than likely that organizations will have them before hackers. For example, Microsoft is working extensively on Quantum computing based cyber security in conjunction with Station Q . Also, new forms of encryption are currently under development in a field of study called Post-Quantum Cryptography which aims to use a beefed-up version of our current public-key algorithms to beat the quantum computers. In addition, security methodologies that completely remove “keys” from networks are developed as a way to defend against quantum computing attacks.

It’s clear this is a subject of great interest for some and great consternation for others, and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to dedicate an entire field of study to this area of cybersecurity. What is important to take away is that this is an area organizations need to be keeping a close eye on, as wide-scale adoption of the technology will be a reality within our careers.