May 19, 2017    4 minute read

Emotional Intelligence Can Give People an Edge over Machines

EI vs. AI    May 19, 2017    4 minute read

Emotional Intelligence Can Give People an Edge over Machines

The staggering growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its applications in everyday life are met both with enthusiasm and fear. On the one hand, it is fascinating how our lifestyle could improve as AI advances in fields such as finance, healthcare and education. On the other, it can be terrifying to think about the enormous upheaval in the working environment and the impact on the occupations of millions of people. As machine learning expands, professionals must require emotional intelligence to make themselves competitive.

A report published by PwC indicates that 30% of UK jobs would be at risk in the next 15 years, compared to 35% in Germany and 21% in Japan. The Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University found out that 85% of US job losses between 2000 and 2010 are due to technological advancements rather than international trade.

A Machine’s Advantages

AI could perform better than people in jobs that require the following fixed sequence of actions: gathering data, analysing it and then making a decision.

Asset managers and financial advisors gather and analyse data based on a client’s needs, then evaluate various risk factors and eventually recommend a particular investment strategy. Consultants carry out similar tasks. AI should easily beat any human being at performing these functions simply because machines can process data faster and better than mankind can.

Furthermore, financial advisors could never possibly consider every bit of data that is available to them because of their biological limitations. It is highly unlikely that any human being can process the historical prices of a company, their correlation with a set of variables, recent investor sentiment in the news and publications regarding the industry.

People cannot simply update their memory by installing a new server; machines can. IBM’s Watson is already solving cases that have baffled doctors for years. Similarly, AI provides financial institutions with a set of powerful tools to allocate capital strategically worldwide.

Emotional Intelligence

However, there are many skills that machines have little chance of replicating, such as motivating, understanding and interacting with people. An algorithm could process more data and obtain results in a quick manner, but ultimately a person needs to sit with a client, understand their needs and communicate a reasonable recommendation.

Emotional intelligence – the ability to understand the feelings of others when making decisions – will become yet more coveted by employers. After all, companies managed by leaders with strong emotional intelligence tend to outperform companies without such individuals at the helm.


Furthermore, self-awareness implies an individual can critically and objectively assess themselves and others. Such people recognise both their strong and weak qualities. Consequently, if a person knows they have a problem with deadlines, they can plan accordingly.

People who see themselves clearly also see others clearly, which helps them progress together. This skill is not easy to acquire and master. “Emotional Intelligence 2.0” by… offers principles and frameworks to measure one’s self-awareness and emotional intelligence, as the title implies.

Empathy and Other Social Skills

Research shows that empathetic individuals perform better than equally smart peers. The reason is that people with high levels of empathy manage their feelings and perform better in social settings.

Stephen Covey stresses in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” the importance of an individual seeking to understand others, rather than making them understand the individual. This requires not only great communication skills but also body language. Empathy can help one build a long-lasting and trusting relationship. Covey further outlines how one can develop empathetic communication in his book.

Even simple human interactions are rather difficult to automate. David J. Deming of Harvard Business School recently published a paper that finds the return on social skills in the labour market is greater than it used to be. Deming further states that jobs that require both cognitive and high social skills have experienced the largest growth since the 1980s. More surprisingly, jobs that involve a lot of math and little social interactions have diminished as a percentage of the U.S. labour force.

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie, highly recommended by Warren Buffett, is possibly the best place to start if one wants to acquire outstanding communication skills.

What Next?

Having superior emotional intelligence can set an individual apart from the crowd in an era when artificial intelligence and automation are widespread.

Furthermore, higher emotional intelligence is associated with a happier lifestyle and more meaningful interactions with people. Technological advancements are rather unpredictable, and it is hard to foresee particular innovations, but there is a wide body of literature supporting the idea that the need to understand and communicate with people will only increase as time passes.

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