Humans Are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will

In his new book, Geoff Colvin offers an engaging, enlightening examination of what makes us human – and shows why technology will never be able to fully replace us.

If you weren’t worried about technology replacing you before reading Humans Are Underrated, you will be — at least after the first chapter. The newly released book on humans versus technology by Geoff Colvin, senior editor at large at Fortune magazine, starts out as a technophobe’s worst nightmare. Colvin tells us just how technology is even more advanced than we realize. There are robots that can detect facial expressions and understand human emotions; those that can interpret situations and issue commands to other robots to achieve a given objective (in other words, act as middle managers); and even software that can grade university papers. Infotech, as the author refers to it, is advancing into both high- and low-skilled jobs; it will be coming after your job next, he seems to say.

But just when you’ve resigned yourself to a career serving your robot overlords, a blinding ray of hope bursts through the glass ceiling. Let’s give up wondering what computers can’t do that we can, Colvin suggests; overcoming technology’s current limitations in a given area is only a matter of time. Better that we consider the question, What activities will we insist that humans do, despite what computers can do? The answer, simply put, is social interaction.

The author spends most of the book providing heaps of evidence (curated from bodies of research done in various areas, including social science and psychology) on why we need humans, particularly to be successful. The discussion is broad, covering which skills employers will increasingly look for — including establishing relationships, the ability to work in teams and the ability to manage diverse populations; the importance of oral storytelling in influencing others; and detailing the importance of empathy. All are accompanied by examples of these principles in action drawn from the worlds of business, economics, academia, sports and the US military (where, as you might imagine, some of the most advanced developments in technology have taken place and where the most unexpected cases for needing humans are demonstrated).

With an easygoing, casual style, Colvin provides an engaging, enlightening examination of what makes us human. He convincingly argues that it is precisely these innate traits and skills that guarantee that no matter how far technology advances, humans will always be not only relevant but necessary to success.