Why AI Will Never Replace Human Mentors

In this article, we talk about what AI is good for, and what it will never be able to replace.

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AI is now able to generate information in a conversational manner. Some AI-generated chat programs are so good you can’t tell you’re not speaking with another person. While this does have exciting potential for the customer service industry, it also invites uncomfortable questions.

Is AI replacing social institutions? Friendship? Peer-to-peer interactions? Mentorship?

While there are many things AI can do, it can’t replace the intangible aspects of human interaction. In this article, we talk about what AI is good for, and what it will never be able to replace.

The Benefits of Machine Learning

Before we get into what AI isn’t and never will be, let’s take a minute to reflect on what this tool is good at. AI is great at:

· Identifying patterns: That’s what it is really doing as it sorts through large quantities of information and makes its predictions. If you give it an enormous data set, it will reliably identify the sequence taking place, and then make reasonable assumptions about what will happen next. When AI produces the appearance of thinking, that’s actually what it is doing— following a logical pattern through to completion using information that you gave it.

· Automating repetitive tasks: Because AI is great at recognising patterns, it is also very good at creating commands for activities that involve a lot of repetition. As long as there aren’t too many variables in play, AI-generated automation can work flawlessly basically forever.

What it’s not good at? Generating new information. In the same way that Google can’t write an article that didn’t already exist to satisfy your online search, AI can’t respond to a prompt with information that it didn’t already have.

On a human interaction level, that’s pretty debilitating. If you chatted with a friend about feeling lonely, and they hit you back with the hours of operation for the company cafeteria, you would be reasonably upset. But that’s the sort of thing you get with AI— non-sequiturs resulting from the fact that the Chatbot program is really just dressing up pre-existing information in a conversational tone.

That’s great for speeding up work. Automating tasks that used to require a significant amount of human labour. It’s not so good for having heart-to-heart conversations.

Now that we’ve established the limitations of AI, let’s talk a little bit about what it is about mentorship that makes it so irreplaceable.

Mentors Give You Something to Aspire to

It’s good to have a role model. Someone who at once humbles you and pushes you to greater heights. People don’t feel the same way about a computer program as they do about Jane Goodall, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, or other notable figures.

Mentees chose their mentors for many reasons, but one of them is respect. They want to learn from someone who has been in the same position they are currently in now and come out the other side ok. That’s not something that even the best computer program will ever be able to provide.


Ideally, you don’t enter a mentorship relationship with an eye only for material gain. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to ignore that having a personal relationship with senior employees can have career advancement benefits.

People tend to assume that networking is just cronyism at its worst. Kiss the right you know whats and get a nice cushy job out of it. Has that ever happened? Sure, it probably has. But most business people want great people working for them. They aren’t using the boardroom as a hangout spot for their pals.

Networking allows you to skip the slushpile and get immediate attention from hiring managers. Having a mentor to vouch for you is a great way to make this happen.

Interestingly, AI actually does play a role in recruitment, these days, but not in the way described above. Many businesses that expect to receive a significant number of applications will use AI-driven software to prioritise applications. When they get a submission from someone who checks all the right boxes— at least to the extent that the AI is able to understand said boxes— that application will go to the front of the line.

That said, there is a buddy-buddy element to how the AI makes these determinations. There’s no saying, “Hey come on Chatbot! Don’t you remember the time I asked you what the company policy on nuts in the break room was? I thought we had something!”

Either you meet the algorithm’s criteria, or you don’t.

Stress Management

Mentorship isn’t just about moving through the ranks and advancing your career. Many people feel the need to talk to more established colleagues because they are suffering from stress. Chances are, your more established colleague has been in the same position that you are in now.

They made mistakes and have learned from them. They pass on wisdom. You know what AI doesn’t have? Yeah. Wisdom.

Never Say Never

Did we use the word never in this article?

Yes. About seven times, actually.

Well. We shouldn’t have. Because one thing that technology will always dependably do is grow, change, and advance. Keep in mind that screen-based technology has only existed for about one hundred years. Household computers have only existed for fifty years. The iPhone came out in 2007.

All of these devices and programs that feel like inextricable aspects of modern life are actually pretty young. AI may be limited in its abilities now, but it improves every day. Eventually, it will probably attain characteristics that will at least seem completely human.

Will that change the way people interact with one another at home and at work? There’s not an easy answer to that question. One thing is for sure— history has proven that it’s never a great idea to bet against digital technology.

For now though, it looks like mentorship relationships are safe.

This article was guest written by Andrew Deen.

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