‘The goal of the future is full unemployment’ - Arthur C. Clarke
The world of work is changing, and one of the central drivers of this is Artificial Intelligence (AI). In cinema, we’ve been overwhelmed with AI, but in the world of business we’re yet to really scratch the surface. This is set to change this year, with global consulting firm Accenture naming Intelligent Automation as the year’s biggest tech trend.
Intelligent Automation uses machine learning processes to teach itself, constantly adapting using new data that feeds into the algorithms. There are a number of key technologies involved in the process, including natural language processing, computer vision, knowledge representation, and reasoning and planning intelligence. Lee Naik, MD of Accenture Digital SA, explains that: ‘I see organizations looking more and more towards intelligent automation to do two things: firstly, to improve the efficiencies of services that can run 24/7 and help them to become more effective in a digital world. Secondly, Intelligent Automation as a way to enable key knowledge workers to be more productive and efficient in driving the correct outcomes for their organization.’
The positives for business are obvious. Replacing people with machines cuts costs. Machines are also both more efficient and more accurate. Increased use of AI in the workplace does, however, have huge ramifications for the labor market, and the next twenty years will see a shift in the nature of employment not seen since the Industrial Revolution.
Later in this issue, Olivia Timson looks at how some of the fears around the use of data have been misplaced. However, concern around the impact on jobs has not been understated. How we deal with the rise of technology will shape the next century, and could spell disaster for the human race if not managed correctly. So far, it doesn’t look like we’re on the right track. Stephen Hawking notes that ‘everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.’
If handled correctly though, rather than eliminating the need for people, it could help us move into better, more interesting and creative jobs - or simply allow us to do whatever we want with our time. If machines can produce all the goods and services we need, why would we not free ourselves from the drudgery and let them?
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