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The Imitation Game

The Imitation Game

Robert Bolton talks about how far we’ve come since first thinking about automation and technology, and sets the stage for an in-depth exploration of the intersection of computer science and human resources.

Robert Bolton

Head of Global People & Change Center of Excellence, KPMG International; Partner

KPMG in the UK


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Imitation and augmentation

A few years ago, The Imitation Game was released in theatres worldwide. The film documents a portion in the life of Alan Turing, often called the father of modern computer science. In the movie, Turing and his colleagues look to create a machine capable of decrypting a German code in the hopes of turning the tide of World War II.

That machine is looked upon as the model for the general purpose computers we have today, crediting Turing with one of the most important inventions of the 20th century. That first “computer,” however brilliant, was incredibly primitive by today’s standards, built for a single task. Turing, on the other hand, saw it for what it was: the beginning of a revolution.

He saw automated computation as a way for machines to imitate certain abilities of humans, but he didn’t limit his imagination to code-breaking or even mathematical processing. He saw a future where the imitating ability of computers would be so refined that in a one-on-one conversation a human wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a fellow living being and an electrical device.

That would become the basis of “The Imitation Game,” a paper he published in 1951 and that sought to be able to one day prove the existence of artificial intelligence through what is now known as “The Turing Test”.

Nowadays, more than sixty years after The Imitation Game was devised, computers have advanced spectacularly. We have seen computers that can imitate our ability to speak, to hold conversations, to build, to farm and more. But we’ve also seen computers that have augmented our abilities. They can sift through millions of data points in a single second. They can construct vehicles with absolute precision. They can take dictation without ever making a mistake.

All of these things were once jobs held by humans.

Many of them are now held by machines.

The cognitive revolution

In the future, this “revolution” will only progress faster, and it’s up to us as business leaders to prepare for it. One of the areas that will face the biggest change is talent management and human resources, and navigating the changing job market will require a significant investment.

Obviously, it’s impossible to predict with certainty what will happen as the Turing Test reveals deeper and more indistinguishable success stories, but there are a few fundamental steps that we will have to take in order to ensure that we’re ready. We need to know what kinds of jobs are likely to be replaced by machines. We need to know how machines will change the jobs that aren’t replaced. We need to know what to do with a workforce that many fear will be displaced.

And we need to know how to be leaders in a future where we aren’t just leading people, we’re leading integrated, automation-driven teams.


Please see below for related topics as part of this multi-series.

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