Opinion: Authentic leadership is the key to humanity in the Age of AI

Over the last year the terms Artificial Intelligence (AI), GPT, and learning language model have become so prevalent that even if you don’t use them, or even understand them, you’ve likely heard of them. The rapid evolution of these technologies and their potential to change the world dominates headlines, news feeds, and casual conversations, leading some to tell you that we’re entering an Age of AI.

I have an alternative to offer, but for it to succeed, it needs you.

Before I get to the heart of my message, we need to get on the same page about a few things:

I have been a tech nerd since I took apart and rebuilt my first computer at 12 years old. (My parents were not thrilled.) That curiosity and passion for technology now finds me spending some time each day exploring the latest and greatest AI innovations. I love technology. AND, I love human connection and communities. (Dynamic tensions anyone?)

The foundation of AI is fundamentally problematic. The algorithms that developers use are inherently biased by the data they have been fed. An unknown, but believed to be significant, amount of that data has been sourced without the consent of its creators. At least that is the basis of a recent lawsuit by a group of artists against two of the leading AI image generation tools. Sourcing issues only begin to scratch the surface of the darker side of this technology.

Predictions differ about the impact of AI on the labor force, and the speed with which AI will spread, but It’s clear, regardless of how we feel about it, that AI is here, it will grow, and it will impact you and those you lead and serve.

OpenAI, creators of the infamous ChatGPT model, believe that “80% of the US workforce could have at least 10% of their work tasks affected by the introduction of GPTs.” In reality, this could range from using GPTs to create first drafts or marketing materials, up to having fully automated digital assistants that learn your routines and provide the resources you’re looking for before even you realize you wanted to look for them.

If you’re getting a knot in your stomach similar to how you felt in March of 2020 when Covid-19 forced us to abandon our daily routines, I encourage you to lean into that feeling. The people, companies and organizations that innovated through the discomfort of new technologies at that time are the ones who didn’t just weather the storm, but lead others through it.

But you need to remember that success, during that time, was not found in the technology itself (How many of those Zoom meetings were you on?), but the people behind the tools who figured out how to use them to drive real impact and change.

This brings me to four virtues a recent FastCompany article outlined as crucial to maintain humanity in an ‘age of AI’:

Humility: “We must, for the first time, ask ourselves what it means to be human in an era in which much of our thinking can be outsourced to machines.”

Curiosity: “What matters today is not experts knowing the answers to all questions but that they are asking the right questions, not retrieving information but critically evaluating and vetting, not collecting insights but making smart decisions based on them.”

Self-awareness: “Understanding ourselves in the age of AI means paying attention to how our interactions with technology are reshaping our behaviors, and what they tell us about ourselves, including our dark side traits: impulsivity, distractibility, self-centeredness, and bias.”

Empathy: “Through recognizing our intellectual limitations and appreciating others’ strengths, even if they are machines, we can become less self-focused, and pay due attention and recognition to others, ultimately leading to feelings of empathy and gratitude.”

Humility, curiosity, self-awareness, and empathy.

If I were to list those values in the abstract, would you think I was talking about AI? Or LRI?

Humility, recognizing that you do not have all of the answers.
Curiosity, wanting to seek out answers.
Self-awareness, knowing that you have as much to offer as you have to learn.
Empathy, understanding that you are part of something greater than yourself.

These values are at the core of why we, at LRI, convene people from different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. We believe that only authentic human connection leads to real change.

So I challenge the notion that we are entering an Age of AI. Instead, I argue that we are stepping into an Age of Authenticity, an era in which new technology exists, but does not dominate; where we leverage AI as a tool, but not as a replacement for human connection and leadership rooted in values.

Maintaining our human virtues at the center of all we do will ensure that our communities will continue to grow stronger, more resilient, and deeply authentic in spite of the technologies that we use.

But this vision of the future requires you to step up to the challenge of not just embracing these values, but leading with them. For the sake of what we know as humanity, I hope you will.