There are two kinds of office work: the uninspiring, but necessary stuff that takes long hours to do and requires little in terms of judgement or emotional intelligence; and the creative part, which is challenging and flexes the human mind.
Software bots have already started to take on some of the routine tasks. We believe that within a decade, Artificial Intelligence will take care of all the repetitive office work so that we can focus our minds on higher value and rewarding activity. AI goes way beyond automation; it brings intelligence to the job at hand, with a truly transformational impact.
Smart does not mean intelligent
The news that chatbots are coming to Facebook Messenger made quite a few waves. The bots are supposed to provide automated responses to customer queries, but the experts are, quite rightly, sceptical. Here’s the question: how can a thing be smart if it cannot match the intelligence of a 10-year-old?
Even worse, bots don’t learn, and it’s important that we distinguish here between ‘learn’ in the true sense of the word and ‘learn’ as a marketing term for ‘had a software update which made it perform better’.
And this is where and why AIs will distinguish themselves; they can develop on the job just as a human employee would. The longer they are in the job, the more they will have access to resources and information; they will remember mistakes made and learn how to avoid them, all the while solving repetitive tasks at a speed unmatched by human employees.
Moving to cognitive intelligence
It’s truly intelligent, cognitive agents that are transforming workplaces. Already, banks are exploring how AI can help them stay compliant with regulations; it’s a complex and laborious job to stay on top of the ever increasing and changing guidelines after all, and it currently costs some banks upwards of £3 billion a year just to keep up.
AI can vastly reduce the time, cost and risk in compliance. It will never be subject to human errors stemming from boredom and tiredness. Most importantly, it will free human employees to do the truly creative and innovative work.
Collaboration, not competition
Maturity in AI is leading to digital labour solutions. McKinsey’s report on the Four Fundamentals of Workplace Automation predicts the automation of knowledge workers. Not only is it true, it is being realised at an increasingly faster pace.
45 per cent of work activities could be automated using currently demonstrated technology – a number that will only go up as our technology advances. Call centres, banks, energy companies, consultancies, hospitals, will all change. The transformative potential lies in coupling our intelligence with that of digital colleagues who unburden us from the mundane.
No industry will be unaffected by AI in the workplace, and it is these hybrid human-AI workplaces of the future that will free us from our common chores and allow humanity to become far more creative and do more meaningful work than ever before.
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