With the evolution in technology, we’re facing a rapidly-changing future. Do you know how you might be impacted and will you need to future-proof your career or business?
Changing technology and the rise of Artificial Intelligence will impact everyone: employees, business owners, leaders, businesses and society, redefining and the meaning of careers and changing workplaces.
What is AI?
Artificial Intelligence is largely known as the ability to understand what you are asking for, to search massive memory banks and to give you the best answer. But there’s more to AI which is about to unfold and it will change the way we do business.
- Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana are set to become the next generation of personal assistants, booking meetings, hiring cars and guiding our daily productivity.
- The development of biosensors and personal devices able to monitor activity, heart rate, blood sugar levels and other vital statistics are set to not only improve our health and well-being, but also to enable healthier workers, reduced sick leave and increased productivity.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. AI is set to become a whole lot smarter. An AI-written novel has already passed the first round of literary awards and the new generation of computers are learning to recognise emotion and become better at speech recognition than humans as well as to better detect rare diseases than doctors.
There’s no getting away from it. Changes are happening everywhere and it is time to start paying attention to what the future may hold!
What’s changing? The good and the bad
Depending on who you listen to, automation and AI is either set to replace humans out of jobs, or it can help humanity to solve its grandest challenges and to create a whole new mechanism for wealth creation. The concerns:
- Are our jobs safe? Oxford University research recently predicted that 47% of jobs in occupational categories are at high risk of being automated in the next 20 years. According to “The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation”, the biggest occupational categories affected are real estate, telemarketing and accounting. (see INTHEBLACK February 2017 – Get Smart, News you need to know)
- Which sectors will be most impacted? The One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence by Stanford University lists some of the areas AI is projected to have the greatest impact on in future as 1. Transport, 2. Healthcare, 3. Education 4. Public safety and security, 5. Employment and the workplace.
- What about ethics? The Stanford study suggests: “Policies should be evaluated as to whether they democratically foster the development and equitable sharing of AI’s benefits, or concentrate power and benefits in the hands of the fortunate few.”
Things worrying business leaders
In a recent keynote on The Future of Work, Josh Bersin from Bersin by Deloitte outlined these future workplace concerns:
- There will be disruptions to their industry
- They will not have the right leadership model or leaders to meet changing needs
- Organisations are not properly structured to cope in the new environment
- Their current employees will not be equipped to compete
- They don’t have the right tools to transform their people’s skills
Employee impact: The average employee will look for a job 17 times and change careers, companies and professions in their career journey.
Right now there is a lot of public mistrust, uncertainty and even anxiety around what the future holds. There are a number of ways this is starting to be addressed. In September 2016 Google, Amazon, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft teamed up to create the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society with the aim of developing a standard of ethics around the development of AI. It is a good start, but let’s hope they move as quickly as technology is and come up with equitable, ethical standards which don’t just benefit the powerful few.
Will robots take over?
Then there is the concern that robots will take over. We’re a long way away from that being a threat. I came across an interesting article in the INTHEBLACK Accounting Magazine, “Here’s why robots won’t take over the economy any time soon” which quotes David Mindell, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, founder of robot technology company Humanistics Corporation and author of Our Robots, Ourselves: Robotics and the Myths of Autonomy. According to Mindell, “We overestimate the abilities of robots and other autonomous machines and, conversely, underestimate how much they might help us. We sense, process and analyse far better than they do, and even the most autonomous robots will depend on instructions from human beings.”
What Mindell suggests is that we view robots as high tech tools which enable us to do new things. That automation changes the type of human involvement rather than taking people entirely out of the picture.
- As artificial intelligence starts to drive business analysis, the balance of power will be held by businesses owning data on consumer insights.
- Businesses accessing and tapping into these insights to better understand and manage their marketing and e-commerce activity will have an advantage over their less-informed competitors.
- According to US research firm Forrester, investment in AI will triple in 2017 and businesses using AI and various related technologies will “steal US$1.2 trillion p.a. from their less informed peers by 2020”.
- Global giants like Google, Apple, Facebook are already collecting massive amounts of consumer data. Those with access to the flood of consumer data coming in from smart devices such as phones, watches and cars, will be placed to better-strategise their marketing, product management and e-commerce activity.
- For start-ups and small businesses, the challenge is to either gain access to the data of the established larger corporations or to grow your own by trading products or services for user data.
- Employees will need to get comfortable with reinventing themselves
- Workplaces will need to hire staff with the right aptitude and attitude to be agile and flexible and will need to facilitate learning to allow their people to continuously reinvent themselves
- As automation does more of what we’ve been doing, there will be a need for more human-like jobs and skills such as creativity, listening, oral expression, interpreting feelings, coordination, social perceptiveness and collaboration.
- People will be freed from the more mundane, dirty or even dangerous jobs to focus on bringing more of their unique personality, character strengths, soft skills and value-added contributions which AI is not equipped to provide.
Automation and AI will replace some jobs and create new opportunities for employment and new ways for doing business. There is the potential to save and improve our lives and to help us solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges, as well as to use technology as a new kind of wealth-creation mechanism for the benefit of all of society.
Organisations, business owners, leaders and employees will need to become more flexible and agile to respond to the changed work-scape. We have to redesign our organisations and jobs to empower people to grow and develop with the changes and to meet changing customer expectations.
People will need to keep learning and reinventing themselves. It is more important than ever that people really get to know themselves and be more self-aware of the wide spectrum of their untapped potential they can draw upon.
Yes, big changes are in the air. One thing is for sure, the technological evolution will reshape the way businesses are structured and operate and force us to be more flexible and agile in what we do and how we do it. We will have to move beyond our past organisational structures, roles and titles. Instead of letting our past experiences define us, we need to start thinking a lot more creatively and collaboratively.
There is still a lot of work to be done to resolve some of the uncertainties to ensure that AI is used ethically and that AI-produced wealth & benefits are fairly distributed for the benefit of all of society. See it as a threat, stay put in your current mould and you risk being left behind.
See it as an opportunity, be flexible in adapting both the physical environment and the mindset to doing new things in new ways. Get on board and utilise the customer data that is available and beat your competition. Invest in fully understanding, developing and reinventing your workplace talent so you stay up to date, flexible and agile and better-able to utilise the new high-tech tools on the market.