Man vs. Machine: In the Artificial Intelligence Future, Will AI Take Our Jobs?

This is the third article in the Radius series exploring issues related to enterprise AI.

Talk about the artificial intelligence future and someone will bring up AI taking your job. There’s a likelihood there’ll be some mention of robots rising up and an allusion to Terminator 2 and Skynet. It gets very dramatic. The narrative is very much one of man versus machine—that it’s only a matter of time before we’re battling robots with supreme AI for our existence.

The Artificial Intelligence Future: Architects of Our Own Doom

Joe Baguley, VP and CTO, EMEA, VMware

There are two problems with these doomsday prophecies. Firstly, if AI does start taking our jobs, we are architects of our own doom. Who built the machines in the first place? Who prioritised convenience, speed and low prices? We did. Look at retail. Across the globe, brick-and-mortar shops struggle to stay afloat. Why? Because of the popularity of online retailers Often, when we talk about the benefits of AI automation, the counter argument is that it shuts out the lowest paid workers.

Opponents say AI could cause unemployment in demographics with the lowest levels of education and the least opportunity to change careers or find alternative work. It’s true that machines have been used in some instances to reduce the number of staff. Think about car production lines, self-service checkouts or the introductory bit when you call a contact centre. Yet, those examples miss the point.

AI can make decisions faster than any human could hope to. Isn’t it a bit of a waste to apply these capabilities to only low-skilled tasks? For all the investment needed, wouldn’t it make more sense to apply it to jobs where quick decision-making make decisions quickly would be more useful? Would AI make these jobs redundant? Well, if deployed correctly, yes. And that’s a good thing. Why? Because it means you’ll have more time to focus on bringing the emotion back to business.

Reintroducing Emotion in Business

Why does emotion in business matter? At the heart of every use of computers or machinery, stretching right back to the industrial revolution, was the desire to do things faster. To go beyond what humans (who need sleep and food and bathroom breaks) can physically manage. One of the side effects of technology is business is the removal of the personal touch, the human connection.

For AI in healthcare and other industries, what does that mean for jobs?

As our artificial intelligence future continues to unfold, how can we harness AI to make our lives and the lives of others better?

We complain about faceless corporations, of the tyranny of the contact form over the direct dial. In our desire for speed and convenience, we sacrificed the ability of businesses to be empathetic. It’s the removal of the bank manager knowing his customers, the butcher or pub landlord knowing what the regulars will have.

AI gives organisations the ability to bring that human connection back into their customer experiences. Being able to act fast and decisively, but with emotion, with empathy, enables a more immersive and uniquely human experience. AI can analyse, make a decision and then leave the human to convey that decision is the most appropriate way. That might be a call centre worker empowered by AI to make adjustments to a customer’s account then and there; it might be a doctor using AI to formulate a diagnosis and focus on the care and bedside manner the patient receives.

That part is just the customer-facing element, of course. There’s a whole raft of opportunities in the backend that already embed AI.

Instead of emotion, you could instead think of it as allowing human creativity to come to the fore—arts and hearts, if you like—freeing us up to be creative and make a difference.

AI across the Organisation

The artificial intelligence future lies in practical applications, such as harvesting data and operating solar arrays in remote locations.

The artificial intelligence future lies in practical applications, such as harvesting data and operating solar arrays in remote locations.

As organisations strive to seize the opportunities offered by the massive volumes of data being generated, they also wrestle with the complexities of managing these complex tech environments. Wouldn’t it be a significant help to deploy AI software that can tell the organisation what’s working and what’s not? It could be solar panel arrays in the Middle East, wind farms in the North Sea or a platform supporting autonomous vehicles. By deploying AI, organisations truly benefit from harvesting data from all sources, remaining agile without sacrificing accuracy.

It’s not just in industries reliant on large-scale machinery, either. Data has long been of huge value to the media industry, where companies like Dentsu Aegis can see the value of the intersection of AI and machine learning with big data and analytics. In the public sector, governments like the Dubai Municipality turn to AI, IoT and big data to meet the demands of heightened citizen expectation. This means knowing what their citizens wants, so they can deliver services before even being asked.

Instead of the AI future meaning lost jobs, it means more time for employees to focus on creating value and spend less time keeping the lights on.

The AI Future Means Man with Machine—Not Man Versus Machine

As the world becomes increasingly digital, humans will reach the limit of our capacity to manage the amount of data being produced. You can see it in the criticisms of social networks not doing more to monitor harmful content, or in a statistic that says 60-73 percent of collected data is never used for any strategic purpose.

AI is good at processing information and making decisions. Why would we want to compete with something that could take every article published on a medical condition and use it to come up with a diagnosis? We can’t, so we shouldn’t. What we should do is use that ability to augment our basic humanity to create value. That value might be reassuring a patient, it might be fixing a phone contract issue or it might be coming up with a new app. Whatever it is, with AI, we’ll be able to do it more effectively and more efficiently.

The artificial intelligence future is not about AI taking our jobs. It’s about letting AI do the mundane work, so we can do the things only human beings are truly great at.