Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Advanced Technologies Need Not Scare You

A growing body of research and literature is pointing out that many traditional jobs will be eliminated or substantially reduced because of the growth in availability of big data, and use of analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data. As a result, many people are concerned about their jobs.

Some will indeed be eliminated, for sure, but in most cases, they will have little to worry about. In fact, they will have some new and interesting challenges.A recent study by the World Economic Forum directly addressed this issue. It has some very positive messages.

There is nothing new about technology incursions into the workplace.We've all experienced it. Taking accountants as an example, the more routine aspects of the job - bookkeeping and preparation of financial statements have been automated for years. The more judgemental parts of the job, such as valuation of assets, have remained largely with humans. However with the use of AI, more of these judgements will be supported and/or initiated by the AI software.

Already, AI is being used to support decisions. But it will move well beyond that. The way it is likely to play out is to imagine how decisions are often made now - through groups of people with different skill sets. Imagine when one of the members of the group is a computer, or an AI engine - one who fully participates in the discussion. Perhaps think of it as a robot. It can listen to ideas, comment on them and offer suggestions. It brings to bear past decisions in similar circumstances and the results of advanced analytics.

The people are still doing their jobs, but with more useful information at their disposal. Less time is spent on the mechanics of the analysis and more on the judgements and decisions to be made. Not everyone is going to know how to do advanced analytics, but some or all are going to need an understanding of them and how to use the results. Therefore as the technology evolves, the level of the people jobs will rise to more challenging and interesting levels.

According to the WEF study, "As companies begin to formulate business transformation and workforce strategies over the course of the 2018–2022 period, they have a genuine window
of opportunity to leverage new technologies, including automation, to enhance economic value creation through new activities, improve job quality in traditional and newly emerging occupations, and augment their employees’ skills to reach their full potential to perform new high value- added work tasks."

One of the results of these strategies we will hear more about will be augmentation strategies - strategies to augment existing jobs and processes with advanced technologies.

Sounds like an exciting new time, time to accept the challenges, not to be afraid of them.

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