How Machines Can Work With Humans

book Associations Now May/June 2017 Issue By: Kristin Clarke, CAE

Three new publications look at how to combine strengths for a powerful partnership, how to boost performance levels, and the secrets to beating stress.

Powerful, data-hungry machines are taking over the world—and associations should thank goodness for it. Although fearful in their complexity, such phenomenal “mathematical intelligence” is the new Swiss Army knife of leaders who can successfully partner its capabilities with their own intellect and experience.

Learning how best to do so is the call to action authors Josh Sullivan and Angela Zutavern make in The Mathematical Corporation: Where Machine Intelligence and Human Ingenuity Achieve the Impossible.

Both experts in data science and machine intelligence at Booz Allen Hamilton, the authors make some big asks of organizations, including openly sharing long-defended data and taking ownership of global concerns.

They also seek to raise understanding of how the five main skills of machine intelligence (organizing, remembering, number crunching, perceiving patterns and detail, and comprehending) can work alongside those of humans (problem solving, creating, imagining, and inductive and deductive reasoning).

“The lesson is simple: Organizations that go broad and deep with their use of data will find opportunities to excel that others don’t,” they write.

Investing in machine intelligence isn’t cheap, but for some, it’s paying off. The latest American Red Cross fire-prevention campaign successfully combined internal data on home fires with data on alarm installations, fire reporting, and census trends.

“Although hard to believe, every professional who works at a desk today will, in the future, use machine intelligence,” the authors predict.

[PublicAffairs; 304 pages; $28]

Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work

By Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal

For a book about achieving ever-higher levels of personal performance, this is sometimes an uncomfortable read.

Journalist Steven Kotler joins peak-performance expert Jamie Wheal for a four-year deep dive into the “accelerating forces” of psychology, neurobiology, technology, and even pharmacology. The goal? Achieving “shortcuts” to the stratospheric performance levels possible through “altered states.”

“Without the shift in psychology, the notion of harnessing altered states toward practical ends would have seemed crazy,” write the authors. “But we now know they can heal trauma, amplify creativity, and accelerate personal development. … We now know the precise adjustments to body and brain function that let us re-create them for ourselves.”

An adrenaline booster to performance literature.

[Dey Street Books; 304 pages; $34.99]

Positively Resilient: 5½ Secrets to Beat Stress, Overcome Obstacles, and Defeat Anxiety

By Doug Hensch

Our minds wander 50 percent of the time, according to Harvard University research, meaning half of our conscious life is spent with our brain just motoring around unhelpfully from mood to memory, environment to anxiety. The result can be stress and depression that feel hard to turn off.

Executive coach and corporate trainer Doug Hensch aims to dim and redirect your mind’s negative rambling in this handbook on resilience-building, where he focuses on the art of reframing, regaining control, and building supportive relationships. Through tactics such as mindfulness training and metrics-setting, Hensch uses exercises and new perspectives to jostle professionals into healthier, happier mindsets.

“Resilience can bring you … peace of mind that you have done your best, and you can live your life according to your most deeply held values,” he writes.

Try the tips on positive self-talk.

[Career Press; 192 pages; $15.99]

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Books: Mind and Machine."]

Kristin Clarke, CAE

Kristin Clarke, CAE, is president of Clarke Association Content and is the books columnist for Associations Now.