If you believe all the pessimism in the news today, you might think that the automation and deployment of AI-enabled systems in the workplace will replace dozens of jobs around the world.
But management and technology experts Thomas Davenport and Steven Miller say AI is not a job killer, regardless of other predictions. Yes, AI and smart technology will take over some jobs, but it will free up workers to do more difficult and important tasks.
Tom and Steven recently completed a book on this topic titled Working with AI: True Stories of Human-Machine Collaboration, and had the chance to speak with them about their predictions for how AI will fit into the workplaces of the future.
Here’s how AI is improving humans in the workplace
When I asked Tom and Steven for examples of AI-augmented work, they brought up several innovative examples.
Morgan Stanley’s Wealth Management business unit uses machine learning to make personalized investment forecasts, much the same way Netflix uses predictive technology in the entertainment world. Wealth managers who use the system are not only more productive, but also have happier and more satisfied clients.
A machine shop uses HoloLens mixed reality smart glasses and augmented reality to train operators in the use of machines. Steven says: “It’s a wonderful example of how new technologies are making it easier for new entrants to find a job.”
At the Jewel Changi shopping complex in Singapore, security teams are using AI to analyze video and input from other sensors to identify situations that might require tracking by human security officers.
What impact will AI have on the future of the workplace?
I asked Tom and Steven about the overall impact of AI on the workplace of the future, and they shared several important trends they’re seeing.
“People will need to embrace digital and smart technologies if they want to be successful in their jobs,” Tom explained. “I worked with a radiologist in the Boston area who also has a Ph.D. in AI. And he kept saying, ‘The only radiologists who are going to lose their jobs because of AI are the ones who refuse to work with AI.”
They were quick to mention that “embracing digital and intelligent technologies” doesn’t mean everyone has to understand the mechanics of machine learning or be able to build underlying DevOps platforms. People just need to understand how to use the tools and understand how AI can help them do their job.
Tom also predicted that AI is unlikely to rival humans in contextual understanding – at least not anytime soon. One of his favorite examples is the online personal styling company StitchFix.
“The AI helps create style recommendations for clients, but they also have human stylists…sometimes the client sends notes about the context of their clothing needs. They’ll say, ‘I’m going to a wedding and my ex will be there” and the computers don’t understand it yet. Humans will be able to choose an attractive dress for the woman to wear.
Tom and Steven found a number of cases where AI can take the first hit to fix a problem, but a business still needs a human to put it all together, review it, review it, and possibly overrule answers from the AI.
Steven also mentions that AI is only a small part of the monumental changes that will occur in the workplace. “It takes a village to switch jobs with AI,” he says. “You need a lot of roles across a lot of different departments that need to be aligned and coordinated…those systems don’t materialize overnight.”
AI doesn’t have to kill jobs, but businesses need to be ready
As jobs grow, amplify and transform, both Steven and Tom encourage companies to create thoughtful strategies about where technology is heading and what kinds of skills and capabilities are needed.
Understanding what work will be done by digital workers, what needs to be done by humans, and how the two will relate will be key to maintaining a competitive edge in the market of the future.
You can watch my full interview with Tom and Steven here:
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