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On Intelligence: Natural and Artificial

Artificial intelligence is officially a thing. It is everywhere, including under the hood on this writing application I’m using. And in our business, it is spreading like a virus over Skynet. 

“I’ll be back” to that in a minute. but first,’ let’s get our terminology straight.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. AI is essentially a very-well-specified hypothesis about how an organism thinks and behaves. 


Lately, in varying degrees of usefulness, AI has found its way into employee management, HR, and internal communications. There is a spate of apps and platforms meant to make the load of managers lighter, the plight of the employee easier, and the hands of leadership, cleaner. 

Managers without question could use a helping hand, artificial or natural. They are overworked and overstressed, and leadership demands more from their managers than the employees who report to them. For all the tasks that keep managers at work later, and arriving earlier, missing family dinners, AI can help.

The argument for AI is, if we give more time to managers to work with their people then better managers they will be. We all know that is not always the case. Projects, new or ongoing fill the void made available by these newfound efficiencies. 

Better stated in Parkinson’s Law, 

“Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” 

And our friend Issak Asimov expanded on that to say, 

“In ten hours a day you have time to fall twice as far behind your commitments as in five hours a day.

According to these laws, all the efficiency and intelligent programs will only make time for existing stresses to expand into the time they are meant to create.

Natural intelligence (NI) is the opposite of artificial intelligence: it is all the systems of control present in biology, as in humans, co-evolving with our changing environments. It is quite literally, what makes us human.

Natural intelligence would tell us that the organisms, let’s call them humans, have needs that are rarely filled by implementing time-saving, cost-cutting measures.

The people our managers (ahem!) manage, have needs beyond the ecstatic joy leadership gets from a 1% year-over-year reduction in shrinkage. These are psychological, and self-actualization needs not served by efficient systems and artificial intelligence assistants.

If anything, we need less artificial and more genuine ingredients in everything. 

More naturally occurring elements like empathy, active listening, gratitude, and sympathy, honesty, mental agility, and empowerment. 

More and more, these are becoming rare and precious resources.

So while we wait for the great singularity where Google and humans become one, let us try to find a balance. Use AI to our advantage. Bend its capabilities to our will. Manage it into the ground. Make it do all the work we don’t want to do. Make it work late and miss family dinners and baseball games, so we don’t have to. So we can be better managers and do the work we want to do. 

But let’s not let Artificial Intelligence (AI) create more time for things that don’t make us, and our teams better. Let our natural intelligence (NI) guide us to what is needed most.


At LaineGabriel, we specialize in the art of employee happiness, building cultures in step with the brand, and an unwavering focus on your "why."

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Cover Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

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