Artificial intelligence (AI) stands as one of the hottest, least understood, and most debated technological breakthroughs of our time.
While the proponents of AI view it as great future technology, others fear that AI and automation will replace humans and take away jobs. But are headlines to be believed, or will AI in-fact create more jobs than it takes away?
Find out how AI will impact the workplace in 2020 and beyond in this blog.
What is artificial intelligence?
For me AI is the latest evolution in a long lineage of automation techniques, which may be a little contentious for some. However, what all forms of automation have looked to achieve is to replace human delivered tasks with a machine to make it more accurate and efficient. This stands true for AI.
The key difference between AI and other forms of automation is a matter of complexity. AI is the science of engineering an intelligent machine (the artificial bit) that mimics, and eventually supersede, human behaviour (the intelligence bit).
The science of AI is still very much in its infancy, and many of its current uses are still only replacing low-skill, repetitive tasks.
Although there are now some advanced mathematical models being used to solve far more complex tasks; they still require a lot of human interaction to help maintain the platforms and for us to tell the model it’s wrong so to allow it to ‘self-learn’.
A lot of fear has arisen around AI due to the glamorisation of what it aims to be, rather than educating about what it is in reality. The reality is, the complexity of human intelligence allows us to make decisions where there is no clear option, and such are the complexity of these scenario’s that individuals often choose a different option given the same circumstances. Current approaches within AI can not deal with this complexity.
Therefore, the current definition which relates to human intelligence highlights the improbability of AI ever entirely replicating, let alone superseding, human behaviour.
How will AI disrupt the workplace in 2020?
The world is evolving quickly and a number of technological innovations are driving transformation. AI is one of these, impacting the workplace today with implications for 2020 and beyond. Here we list some of the main ‘disruptions’ that are taking place now and look set to continue in the immediate future.
Improved safety in the workplace
For industries where employees work in hazardous environments, such as manufacturing, AI is likely to be hugely beneficial. Industrial robots powered by AI can safely handle complex and potentially dangerous tasks without putting human well-being at risk.
Automation of manual processes
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is gaining a lot of traction. It enables the automation of repetitive, discrete tasks that are typically time consuming and not rewarding for the people carrying them out. Using a robot to automate these processes enables those currently carrying out the task to spend more time on more rewarding aspects of their job.
A demand for skills that compliment AI
As well as an increase in different technical skills, such as Mathematics and Scientific Research, employers will increasingly seek candidates with social and emotional skills that AI cannot provide.
AI in the workplace will also force these technical skill sets of workers to improve across a wide range of industries from healthcare to clerical. All technological skills, both advanced and basic, will increase by 50 percent in the United States and 41 percent in Europe according to a McKinsey report.
Improvements in customer service
Many chatbots you’ve probably come across can’t be described as truly intelligent, but as the technology improves these chatbots will help improve the customer user experience. When chatbots can successfully recognise customer sentiment (such as anger or sarcasm) and deliver genuinely empathetic responses, then this can free contact centre staff to deal with the more difficult scenarios that require genuine human intervention.
What are the risks of artificial intelligence in the workplace?
A lack of understanding
There are downsides to all technologies. AI has the potential to be used by teams or individuals who don’t really understand data, and so ensuring you have the right people creating and utilising the AI algorithms will be critical to minimise any potential for mistakes.
Training is critical to achieve this and the recruitment of the right skills in the first place. Hiring from the scientific sectors may be a consideration for companies looking to embrace AI, as these people are already well-versed in how to process data and understand complex algorithms.
Excitement over appraisal
Another risk is an organisation becoming over-excited by the platform producing ‘results’ and not critiquing it enough to ensure the models are robust and asking the right questions before launching it into the workplace.
Particularly when using AI to provide insight into data; if the data hasn’t been prepared properly, models not tested thoroughly, and/or hypothesis not being correctly applied then the output from the model is likely to provide poor quality insight, that could cause more harm than good for your business.
Employees who don’t upskill may be left behind
Finally, one of the classic concerns is that AI poses a threat to jobs. This may be understandable when it is reported that AI is expected to be better equipped than humans to write a high school essay by 2026, drive a truck by 2027, work in retail by 2031, write a best-selling book by 2049, and perform surgery by 2053. However, I would argue ‘elements of’ should be included prior to each of those examples, due to the previously discussed complexities around human intelligence.
It is therefore far more likely that this AI-driven shift in the workplace will result in more jobs being created than lost.
In fact, PwC estimate that by 2037, AI will create more jobs than it displaced in the UK by boosting economic growth, and Gartner predicts that AI will create substantially more jobs than it eliminates even in 2020.
Many sensationalised media reports of job losses miss the greatest AI benefit, where AI and human intelligence work to complement each other.
How will artificial intelligence transform business?
As discussed earlier, automation is used interchangeably with AI, and some of the main uses for AI are looking to continue to provide benefit in the same way as earlier automation methods; by replacing a low skilled, manual task with a machine. Examples where this is already transforming businesses are seen with chatbots and RPA.
However, where AI can start to truly transform businesses is when it’s used to solve highly complex tasks that are too time consuming or error prone for humans to complete.
Enterprise organisations that are enabling AI are making faster, more informed decisions, improving operational efficiencies, and innovating at a greater rate, according to research by EY.
Employees are reporting optimism about the future of automation. AI adoption is fast becoming essential for companies to keep, or win, a competitive edge. This is why Capita has invested heavily within AI and will continue to do so to ensure we can continue to support our customers in their own transformations.