Coaching in the world of AI

Every year, the breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence (AI), the intelligence displayed by machines, become more and more astounding. The list of what intelligent machines can now do better than humans grows and grows. From driving cars more safely to making more accurate medical diagnoses and being far smarter at predictions, it is clear that we’re on the cusp of a tech revolution that will soon bring sweepings changes with the aim of fundamentally improving human lives.

Amidst the amazement and excitement, there are also fears at the potential dark side of AI, as well as a more basic fear that because the machines can be smarter than us, we may find ourselves ‘useless’. A quick scan of the media and you will find a constant stream of narratives and conversations about a potentially huge scale of work that might be lost to people in the near future, thanks to the machine.

Some sceptics argue that no matter how clever a machine can be at the left brain functions such as logic and analysis, word recognition and mathematics; it would be impossible for AI to become better than us in the complex right brain domain of emotion, empathy, creativity, and intuition. They typically also argue that our need for ‘the human connection’ is always going to trump the machine. But is this true? It is well-proven that humans have an exceptional capacity to forge connections and even, relationships that we find meaningful, not just with the humans who we only know virtually, but with members of other species, with the substances that we become addicted to, with the games that we play compulsively, and of course, with our devices that make constant online connection possible.

Tech advances, particularly in communications, have already fundamentally changed the way that many 21st Century coaches, counsellors and therapists work. For years it has been common, particularly for coaches, to engage with clients all over the world, and those that do so, know from experience that in-person connection or even face-to-face time over a platform, are actually not always necessary for quality coaching to take place. Voices can be enough to establish the trusted environment and personal connection for effective coaching to take place. Sometimes, the voice-only virtual connection can put certain clients at greater ease, and in a group coaching session enable the more reticent clients to speak up and participate more meaningfully.

However, tech for coaching is rising to new levels. There are a plethora of self-improvement apps and device features available that are aimed at helping people change behaviour, form healthier habits and achieve their goals – the typical work of a life coach. Mindbloom, a mobile app and social gaming platform is a good example of this. A user sets and shares their goals with others, connecting and interacting to encourage each other, send inspiring messages, track performance and compare progress. Essentially, Mindbloom enables people to crowdsource coaching services from the group that they engage with. Apps such as Virtual Life Coach turns your device into an always-on, always-available coach at a fraction of the cost. These kinds of solutions are undeniably positive as they are enabling more and more people to access affordable and convenient coaching services. But does this mean that human coaches are in danger of becoming redundant?