Automation: Skynet? Or your friendly virtual assistant?

Posted by Brendan Lowry on Sep 13, 2017 2:02:54 PM
Brendan Lowry

You know what would make writing this a whole lot easier? If I could just think of a concept, add a pinch of direction, and an algorithm could just take it from there. Like a download version of the classic Matrix-style brain uplink. But alas, here I am sitting in a semi-lit room at work having to use my fingers to type letters to form words to shape ideas. How archaic!

Alright that was me being sarcastic. But are we really that far away from having that sort of technology? In reading articles, and speaking with friends & family, there is a general consensus that we might not be. This idea stems from the threat of automation – specifically automation in the workforce. Automation is a term that has been around for a long time however. For example, automation can refer to fire alarms setting off sprinklers in emergency situations. It’s when you start to combine automation with artificial intelligence (AI) that you start to realize, fire alarms are just glorified tip calculators. Artificial Intelligence is advancing at an incredible speed, and as that continues to progress, we start to see more everyday applications for it.

Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana are the most common examples of AI’s that are being used by millions of people every day. But these AI’s are ultimately designed to make the user’s life easier. The User Experience, or UX, of these apps is what makes them so successful. This is important because an application, AI or not, is only ever as good as its UX. And as designers begin to specialize specifically in the creation of UX, the easier it is to build customizable automation solutions. This is essentially what will allow artificial intelligence to start seeping into the various facets of the workforce. Which in turn, causes the hot new buzzword: disruption. I’m no mathematician (seriously, I have a hard time with arithmetic), but I’m betting the equation for this is: AI+UX(Automation)=Disruption. Or some combination thereof… I forgot my tip calculator at home so I can’t be sure.

Regardless, AI and automation are starting to transform the landscape in a way that has never been seen before. In a recent study of several hundred business leaders from multiple sectors, 53% of professionals in the telecommunications industry have already adopted automation into their work. Furthermore, more than half of business leaders are interested in workforce automation. It would appear the automation train has no brakes…

So, do we have reason to be concerned? Will your job soon be replaced by a robot named Jarvis? This WorkMarket report sums it up best in my opinion:

“Despite the media’s fascination with the so-called “Robot Apocalypse,” the first wave of automation won’t result in massive job displacement. On the contrary, our findings suggest that automation will actually free up business leaders and employees to spend more time perfecting work projects (41%) and improving client relationships (33%). Only a small handful of respondents (6% vs. 3% employees) believe their entire job could be automated.”


I think this is important for a couple of reasons: first, the speed in which automation is disrupting industries may be worrisome, the rate in which is effects individual workers will be fairly gradual. AI, like any intelligence, needs to “learn” and it does this by gaining data. So initially at least, automation will be a support mechanism used to eliminate monotony and free up time for employees. Secondly, the client relationship piece. We are still a long way away from having an AI system in place that can replace the role of business development and sales. Having an AI broker deals with personnel is not something any business would feel comfortable with now or even in the near future. However, once deals are made, why couldn’t automation take over the role of finalizing contracts? This has the potential of streamlining the rate in which revenue comes and goes. Ultimately, we are still in the infant stages of the “robot revolution”. Currently, only 13% of companies are currently using AI, though 44% of business leaders are planning to implement AI in the next 3-5 years.

So, take a deep breath, raise the keyboard on your standing desk, do an office lunge or two and know that your job isn’t about to be swept out from under your feet like an old rug. Start looking forward to what the future of automation holds. Instead of having to type up that proposal or wait for approval, a robot named Ursula could have it all done for you at the click of a button (or two). From there, you’d have more time to think outside the box and get that project you left on the back burner finished. More importantly, start to get informed about automation and AI. Become familiar with your future work assistant. If Terminator taught me anything, it’s inevitable.


Source: WorkMarket 2020 In(Sight) Report: What AI & Automation Really Mean For Work


Tags: AI, innovation, automation