AI and automation: Where does the future of the workplace lie? [5 Reading Tips]
The dream of creating equal or even higher intelligence than humanity is a recurrent theme in books and films. Recently, however, it looks as though this moment will come closer and closer through “Sacred” automation. The buzz everyone’s talking about: AI, algorithms, machine learning. More and more intelligent software is taking care of that. This gives rise to great concern: Will AI take our jobs away? But I keep asking myself: Is this fear justified? What is the status quo and what should retailers and manufacturers pay attention to?
Demystifying “Artificial Intelligence”
Despite the victory of AI software against the best player in the world, such as AlphaGo, AI is still a long way from human-level perception. Humankind can face a problem that has never presented itself and solved before. Computers aren’t able to deal with the unknown, but only process the information transmitted to it.
But machines have proven that their performance in repetitive processes is first-rate without human intervention. And through machine learning they can already see and hear. And that’s important to solve problems that involve recognising objects in images. For example, in autonomous vehicles, digital farming, or in the healthcare sector. In addition, machines can convert text to audio and automatically generate translations.
That’s smart, but lacks actual intelligence.
2017 was the year when the power of AI was no longer overestimated. Ian Bogost wrote an article for The Atlantic with the devastating headline: ‘Artificial Intelligence’ Has Become Meaningless.
Similarly, Jerry Kaplan commented:
We should stop describing these modern marvels as proto-humans and instead talk about them as a new generation of flexible and powerful machines. We should be careful about how we deploy and use AI, but not because we are summoning some mythical demon that may turn against us. Rather, we should resist our predisposition to attribute human traits to our creations and accept these remarkable inventions for what they really are—potent tools that promise a more prosperous and comfortable future.
Closer cooperation of humankind and machine, intelligent training
Having compared the powers of AI, it is also fair to say that this technology has a direct impact on work. And that is exciting for some, but horrible for others. According to Bitkom, the Germans are divided into two parts: One half sees AI as a threat, while the other sees it as a chance for a brighter future.
There is a lot of literature in this regard and many dramatic predictions. But there are some basic facts that companies should consider in order to identify potential problems in a timely manner:
- Retailers and manufacturers must now understand that AI is fundamentally changing the way people work, and that people are increasingly working with algorithms.
- Everything that can be replaced is taken over by machines. This means that people gain more time to accomplish more meaningful and challenging tasks. Conversations lead instead of bookkeeping and designing a new strategy is better than optimising prices. This results in two direct consequences. On one hand, this leads to unemployment, which should perhaps be addressed by means of robotic steering or an unconditional basic income. On the other hand, new job profiles will be needed in the future.
- The cooperation between humans and machines is the winning combination. But new skills are needed for that to happen. Companies that have recognised such challenges rely on further education. But to be successful here, jobs should be found that the AI can’t do and people are being trained to do, including Kaplan.
Companies should also try to use AI and robotics responsibly, according to PwC. This includes promoting innovation and research, developing strategies to protect customer data, and helping workers and institutions adapt to the new needs of these technologies, as well as reconfiguring training programs.
So does AI work for your business or do you let AI work for you?