Published in, The Credit Union Times
By Stuart R. Levine

Wired Magazine co-founder, Kevin Kelly, is a Singularitarian, who professes that at some point in the not too distant future, “all change in the last million years will be surpassed by the change in the next five minutes.” This point in time becomes the tipping point where artificial intelligence surpasses human intelligence.  Numerous movies have predicted this with apocalyptic outcomes, most recently the 2014 thriller, “Transcendence”, depicting a diabolical super computer that can outthink the human race.  Futurists, such as Ray Kurzweil, predict that this singularity will happen by the year 2045 at the latest.

The progress towards singularity took a substantial leap recently with the unveiling of Google’s D-Wave 2X Quantum Computer.  Google claims the D-Wave to be 100 times faster than any current digital computer. To put this into perspective, a solution to a problem that would take a current digital computer 10,000 years to calculate, would take the D-Wave seconds to complete.  The implications of this, however, go far beyond simply calculating solutions to problems, since the D-Wave is revolutionizing the field of artificial intelligence.  The uses of such powerful artificial intelligence have far reaching effects, from government to the consumer, with endless possibilities from optimizing space travel and driverless cars, to planning your next flawless vacation itinerary.  The implications for commercial industries, however, are staggering.

Robots already comprise a large amount of the international workforce.  Add quantum artificial intelligence to them and the boon in productivity, efficiency and safety could be astounding.  Enrique Dans, in his Forbes leadership column, points out that the potential increases in robotic use and efficiency could push us into the fourth industrial revolution, pointing out that this revolution would result in a significant loss of human jobs, causing society to rethink activities that humans could be engaged in.  Dans uses the example of the Changying Precision Technology Company in China that has replaced 90% of its human workforce with robots. The remaining workers are responsible for the robotic maintenance, while others are in higher level leadership positions. The maintenance will eventually be taken over by other robots, leaving a limited role for humans.

As Wired’s Kevin Kelly points out, once the singularity tipping point is reached, progress will happen exponentially as artificial intelligence will continuously redesign itself and could virtually eliminate most, if not all, manual labor and even middle management jobs. Although most feel that artificial intelligence and quantum computing may not spell the end of humanity, it will unquestionably create some new leadership challenges.

So how do leaders adapt to this new workforce of robots and AI quantum computing?  Will leaders need to develop new and specific competences in order to deal with this looming industrial revolution?  For the short term, leaders need to understand and embrace this new technological revolution. They need to integrate this ultimate change management challenge into their future vision and current strategy.  If leaders don’t get ahead of the technology and imminent revolution, the tech will run over them like a steamroller over warm butter.  Only this steamroller will be powered by quantum artificial intelligence. Driven by this technology, the pace of change is rapidly accelerating like nothing we have seen before, and as we approach, and eventually reach, singularity, the pace of change will be blinding.

For the not too distant future, however, leaders need to adjust their way of thinking and possibly their leadership priorities. Strategy, ethics and continuous learning will become even more important than they are today to the success of their organization.  While current leadership philosophy says a leader should surround themselves with the brightest and the best people for advice and guidance, future leaders will need to surround themselves with the brightest and best quantum AI computers. Human leaders will be tasked with taking the enormous amount of data and information from this new breed of advisor and making strategic and organizational sense out of it — molding it into a future strategy that will ultimately provide positive outcomes for the organization.

The ability for leaders to develop and execute strategy, although extremely important now, will become their primary, if not only, focus in the future.  The importance of the leader’s role in being the keeper of the corporate values and remaining ethical in their decisions, will also be amplified in this technological enhanced future.  As we move down the path of quantum computing and artificial intelligence, the core competencies of leadership may not change, however only those with highest levels of intellectual curiosity, strategic thinking and values will survive in the new age.