The Future of Artificial Intelligence Is Job Augmentation, Not Elimination
While AI is poised to transform countless industries around the globe, it has already started to generate a lot of fear from the humans who will be living and working alongside the machines. Titles like “AI overlords” and “AI hiring managers” have everyone on edge.
Despite the hype, hysteria, and fears surrounding AI, automated robots are not set to bring our sci-fi-fueled nightmares to life — at least not anytime soon. A lot of the panic stems from the implication that these smart robots will soon replace their human counterparts in the labor force. In reality, the technology is nowhere near sophisticated enough at this point.
Instead, we should all see AI as a tool that complements human employees, allowing them to be more productive. This means completing more tasks, faster. Handing off the boring or dangerous tasks and acting more as a manager or curator for robot “employees” that are slowly being deployed to the enterprise.
According to a recent AI study by Microsoft and IDC titled “Future Ready Business: Assessing Asia Pacific’s Growth Potential Through AI,” 67% of Business Leaders and 64% of Workers believe that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will augment their jobs and not displace them, allowing them to do their existing jobs better or reduce repetitive tasks.
The study also found that just 10% of Business Leaders expect AI to replace jobs, with a mere 7% of workers agreeing with this view, further reinforcing the notion that AI will augment — not displace — jobs. Furthermore, Microsoft and IDC’s findings revealed AI will accelerate the rate of innovation and employee productivity improvements to nearly double in the Asia-Pacific region by 2021, and 80% of Business Leaders polled agreed that AI is instrumental for their organization’s competitiveness.
Tech giant Google has even gone so far as to rebrand itself as an AI-first company. This means they anticipate infusing every part of their operation from the top to the bottom with Artificial Intelligence to allow them to do more faster.
AI for the Enterprise
Generally speaking, AI can support three crucial business needs: the Automation of business processes that are arduous and time-consuming, gaining Insight through the analysis of data and better engaging with customers and employees. The most common type of AI project involved the automation of digital and physical tasks. While people might imagine Robotic Process Automation (RPA) would quickly put them out of a job, replacing employees was neither the primary objective nor a common outcome.
From Administrative, Real Estate and Financial Services to personal Digital Assistants, Robotic Process Automation saves money, supports the skilled worker, frees up time previously occupied by monotonous and tedious tasks and is ultimately a necessary step forward in the ability to meet the needs of both businesses and consumers.
Another common application uses algorithms to detect patterns in vast volumes of data to interpret their meaning. Lastly, applications that engage employees and customers are on the rise. From online agents offering 24/7 customer service to platforms that optimize internal operations by automating certain tasks to free employees up to do more thoughtful work, organizations are increasingly deploying cognitive engagement technologies to interact with customers and employees alike. And as more companies become more comfortable turning customer interactions over to machines, the widespread use of enterprise AI will explode.
The reason for this is that the current generation of AI, which relies on a subfield called Machine Learning and Deep Networks, is never 100% accurate. We’ve all had experiences with Siri, Alexa or Google Home missing our intents or failing to complete basic tasks. Despite all the work and money pouring into this space, the software still makes mistakes. Humans will continue to play a critical role in the foreseeable future, helping to make up for these gaps in capabilities. The parts AI can do efficiently is where gains will come from for worker productivity and automating boring or dangerous tasks.
“Welcome to Good Times, May I Take Your Order?”
Consider Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard, a Colorado-based fast-food restaurant, as an example. The restaurant has hired Holly, a proprietary Artificial Intelligence conversation platform for enterprise applications.
Leveraging Machine Learning to automate repetitive tasks, incorporate new information to improve experiences and personalize user interactions to drive engagement, Holly ensures a consistent experience, helps address labor shortages, especially during key times of heavy traffic, and provides unprecedented opportunities for data collection and user experience optimization.
Launched earlier this year, the early results at Good Times are extremely promising, with efficiencies that reduce average customer wait times by 10-25%. Holly has also led to a noticeable bump in Sales for the first restaurant. The platform’s average attempted to upsell rate is 40%, and Good Times experiences an average 6% increase in spend per order and as much as a 23% increase on some days.
Holly’s successful “employment at Good Time Burgers & Frozen Custard’s outlines an encouraging roadmap for other organizations looking to make their employees’ lives easier. A great example of how AI can be used to augment human employees, Holly fills the gap to make both the customer and employee experiences as seamless as possible. In an industry with hundreds of thousands of open positions and an astronomically high turnover rate, Holly excels. While humans struggle with order memory, getting bored when completing repetitive tasks and dealing with prolonged wait times, Holly takes mindless repetitive tasks from Good Times’ human employees, allowing them to spend more time focused on the customer at the window, improving order accuracy and decreasing wait times.
Rather than seeing AI as a job-stealer, today’s AI acts as a colleague with a vastly different skillset that complements the role of human employees, freeing them up for the most interesting and useful tasks. Ultimately improving the way work is done, AI makes businesses more productive by enabling a reduction in repetitive and transactional tasks, which will simultaneously empower employees to perform tasks more efficiently, making their jobs easier with the help of AI.
Augmented — Not Artificial Intelligence
AI is not a tool that needs to be feared, instead, it ought to be leveraged to exceed our limitations as human beings. Humans still excel at skills like empathy, creativity, and the human touch, and AI is not yet developing business strategies. As such, we’re going to continue to need business leaders to develop those strategies and lead teams. In the not-too-distant future, AI will be part of the answer, eliminating menial tasks that distract human employees from focusing on the end result.
For tasks that do not require context and are easily repeatable, AI solutions can increase efficiency without introducing risk. In the short-term, the most relevant use cases for enterprise AI can be found in technologies that combine the power of machines with Human Intelligence to augment our capabilities in new and exciting ways. With the right planning and development, AI technologies could pave the way for increased productivity, work satisfaction, and business success.