From Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” in 1927 to the titanic “Terminator” franchise of present day, popular culture has reflected an unwavering fear of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation for decades. While the entertainment industry may have drawn inspiration from public anxiety over the past century, the broader reasons for aversion to digital evolution have changed. At the present, the more common fear of AI stems from concerns about displacement and annihilation of job roles across industries, as intelligent, AI-related technologies like process automation and digital content services continue to evolve and eliminate manual tasks that were once managed by human hands and minds.
While this digital evolution may mean the end of certain roles in the future of work, for most it will more likely mean a simultaneous evolution of skills and responsibilities in human-based occupations.
Here’s the scoop:
1. Automation doesn’t mean extinctionForecasts indicate that all jobs will be impacted by AI and automation technologies in the future, but that doesn’t mean those jobs will be replaced. AI is not capable of the complex skills a human can apply to areas like customer service, situational judgment and emotional intelligence at a level that customers can comfortably depend on. AI is currently best applied in workplaces through repetitive learning and numerical discovery—more intelligent process maintenance and improved data retrieval. “In the end, AI will help create jobs,” says author and Silicon Valley veteran Ray Zinn. “Technical applications require a range of workers, from field techs who repair sensors to data scientists who model from massive data sets. It takes people in IT to run servers and configure routers. It needs people assembling components to read and control devices.” Automation technology also plays its role in improving, not eliminating, the human workplace. Process automation can be used to manage and streamline the minutiae of daily work operations, such as document management, records retention and review and approval processes. When combating the fear of being digitized out of a job, perspective is important as well.
“We need to rethink our purpose,” says Laserfiche Technical Product Manager Sarah Wefald. “Is it my job to manage this form, or is it my job to manage the process?”
2. Digital collaboration frees up time and energyWhen intelligent machines work collaboratively with people to automated tasks and chores, people are liberated to do what they do best. A recent Accenture survey provided evidence of how employee time was spent at a range of organizations. The survey found that 54% of employee time was spent on administrative coordination and control, while only 10% was spent on strategy and innovation. Opportunities to learn, create and innovate are made more readily available when manual tasks and repetitive business processes are digitized and automated.
3. Digital transformation is a people-first strategyDigital transformation of any kind relies on talent development. Lifelong learning is the new normal, and the future of work will be dependent on the dedication of employees to continuing their education and expanding the potential of their job roles. With AI managing redundancies in daily operations, the human workforce can focus on the more important aspects of business management and development: innovative brainstorming, interpersonal collaboration, and refining the customer experience. Ultimately, there will be job functions that make the switch from human to machine-operated. However, digitally conscious workplaces are evolving their strategies to meet these changes and still prioritize people first. Sarah Wefald offers perspective: “Are we valuing people on tactical skills, or strategic ability and changes to revenue or performance? AI and automation technologies are tools that can help your bosses more deeply value what you do” by streamlining menial work tasks and better expressing the successes of your process management skills through features like reporting and analytics.
When we change the more basic expectations of our job roles, we can begin to lead the digital transformations in our workplaces instead of succumbing to anxiety over the learning curve.Related: The Pioneer Behind Sophia the Robot and a Decentralized Open Market for AI