The acceleration of artificial intelligence (AI) is sending shockwaves across industries. As companies rapidly adopt AI to streamline operations, conduct research, and drive innovation, what does this change mean for the role of anthropologists in business? How can anthropology graduates position themselves to deliver value in an AI-driven future?

Insights from the Frontlines of Business Anthropology

In a recent webinar, I hosted on “AI in Business Insights, Innovation, and Strategy,” researchers, strategists, and executives at the forefront of leveraging AI shared a wealth of insights on how anthropologists can prepare for the AI revolution.

A consistent theme was using AI as a collaborative tool to enhance productivity rather than replace human skills. Laura Musgrave, an anthropologist at the innovation consultancy Spark, explained how AI supports key research tasks like analyzing large datasets, freeing up time for higher-level analysis. However, human judgment remains essential for contextualizing insights and guiding decisions.

The panelists also stressed the need for anthropologists to complement their qualitative expertise with skills like data literacy, analytics, and technical versatility. Tom Hoy, an executive at the research consultancy Stripe Partners, advised embracing AI rather than rejecting it. Collaborative efforts between anthropologists and data scientists play a crucial role in maximizing overall value.

Upholding Ethics in an AI-Driven World

With the rapid scaling up of AI, the panelists emphasized the need for ethical implementation. Laura Musgrave outlined crucial ethical considerations around areas like privacy, bias, transparency, and environmental impacts. Responsible AI practices are vital as businesses integrate AI across functions.

Anthropologists have a unique opportunity to bring their humanistic lens into technology deployment. Our core strength lies in contextualizing findings within social, cultural, and organizational environments. Anthropological insights will help to ensure AI solutions respect human needs and values.

Continual Learning as AI Evolves

The panelists also highlighted the need for continual learning and skills development as AI capabilities rapidly advance. They advised maintaining openness to experimenting with emerging innovations while also applying a dose of healthy caution. As Anna Haverinen, an anthropologist at the design firm Reactor, noted that it is vital to dedicate time specifically for learning about evolving AI tools since lifelong learning is imperative to stay relevant.

Careers & AI

Preparing for the Future: Action Items for Anthropologists

Based on these insights, here are five key ways that aspiring anthropologists can prepare for AI-driven business:

  1. Develop versatile skillsets: Complement qualitative expertise with skills like data science, analytics, and digital fluency. Technical versatility is key.
  2. Collaborate across disciplines: Seek opportunities to collaborate with technical teams like data scientists. Blend qualitative and quantitative methods.
  3. Maintain humanistic perspective: Uphold anthropology’s core strength in balancing ethics, social context, and human needs with business outcomes in deploying AI.
  4. Commit to lifelong learning: Continually learn about new and evolving AI capabilities and how business applies them. Dedicate time to experiment with emerging tools.
  5. Bring an entrepreneurial mindset: Look for opportunities to build multi-disciplinary products and services at the intersection of anthropology and AI. Lead the way in humanizing technology.

Harnessing Anthropology Tools for AI Readiness

The Anthropology Career Readiness Network offers a variety of resources that can be instrumental in preparing anthropologists for the integration of AI in their work. Here are some key tools and how they can be applied:

  1. “How Proficient Are You?”: This tool allows anthropologists to self-assess their strengths and weaknesses, which can help identify areas for improvement, such as data literacy or technical skills.
  2. “Networking Basics & Informational Interviews”: This resource can aid in building connections with professionals in the AI field, encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration.
  3. “Job Interview Strategies: Steps for Success”: This tool can be utilized to prepare for job interviews in AI-related roles.
  4. Resumes, CVs, Portfolios, and Bios, Oh My!”: This guide can assist anthropologists in effectively showcasing their unique skills and experiences in the context of AI.
  5. “Project Management Basics for Anthropologists”: This tool is particularly relevant as project management is a crucial skill in AI implementation projects which are typically complex.
  6. “Show Our Impact: Communicating about Anthropology to Employers”: This tool can help anthropologists articulate the value they bring to AI-driven businesses, emphasizing their ability to ensure that AI solutions respect human needs and values.

By utilizing these resources strategically, anthropologists can enhance their readiness for the AI revolution, positioning themselves to deliver significant value in an AI-driven future.

About the Author: Matt Artz

Matt Artz
Matt Artz is an innovative anthropologist, designer, strategist, product manager, and entrepreneur, specializing in user experience, product development, and consumer insights. His groundbreaking design work has attracted attention from Apple’s Planet of the Apps and the 2022 South by Southwest (SXSW) Pitch Competition and his visionary ideas have been showcased on TED, UNESCO, UserZoom, UX Planet, Towards Data Science, Product Coalition, and Zapier. Follow his podcasts Anthropology in Business and Anthro to UX to learn about the application of anthropology to business and design. Stay connected with Matt’s latest work and insights by following him on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Spotify, and Google Scholar. For media inquiries, contact Matt.