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Would You Work With A Robot?

David Howell, Forbes

In the near future, will some of us have robotic colleagues?

Pepper the automated receptionist, Brainlabs
Pepper the automated receptionist, Brainlabs BRAINLABS

Mass job losses and a fundamental shift in employment have been forecast by some, as automation changes how businesses operate. Every business will be touched by this technology no matter their size. In the near future, will some of us have robotic colleagues?

It’s 2035. Booting my iMac, after checking email and my favourite newsfeeds, I start iDavid, my digital assistant, I tasked yesterday with some research I need for a feature I'm doing next month for my Forbes channel.

My digital assistant uses advanced machine learning to understand the kind of information I’m looking for. The assistant is also intelligent enough to suggest people and organizations I should speak to and, has also searched databases of academic research for related innovations.

How automation might impact work and workers remains to be seen. What is certain is automation will change how businesses are operated and, how the human capital they contain will be partnered with automated systems. All business could not function without a range of technologies.

How these tools are implemented is often contentious. In an office environment, no one expects to be seated next to an android, but the repetitive, mundane tasks many workers face each day, will be automated.

The job security anxiety that has received much press coverage with headline shouting about mass unemployment is largely hyperbole and, a reaction to technologies that are not yet fully understood. How AI will impact workers remains to be seen. But specific occupation will undoubtedly see more automation in the workplace. Information-based jobs will be augmented, with intelligent systems using machine learning to deliver tools and support to human workers.

KPMG’s Future Ready Finance Survey, for instance, finds 11-20% of the finance workforce to be significantly impacted by automation in the next two years. Peter Luscombe, UK Head of Finance Transformation at KPMG UK, says: "Finance functions are, by nature, traditionally reflective and analytical. However, while automation has not had an impact at scale yet, finance teams that are not demonstrating strategic behaviours may find themselves questioning their value in an automated world.”

IPsoft’s cognitive AI agent, Amelia.
IPsoft’s cognitive AI agent, Amelia. IPSOFT

Is your business’s next employee going to be an AI? IPsoft thinks so, as they have recently launched what they call the first marketplace for digital workers.

An enterprise can hire digital employees pre-trained as IT service desk engineers who can handle a wide range of support issues both independently and in collaboration with human co-workers, delivering rapid deployment and immediate business value, IPsoft claim. The marketplace will soon offer digital employees for administration and HR as well as other industry-specific roles.

This defines a new category of enterprise AI-powered by Amelia, IPsoft’s cognitive AI agent. Unlike solutions underpinned solely by chatbots or robotic process automation (RPA), Amelia's cognitive intelligence allows her to interact naturally with humans and continuously learn from every interaction, all while integrating and communicating with back-end systems.

“SMBs are increasingly investing in more sophisticated and intelligent solutions. Digital customer service agents, for example, leverage artificial intelligence, Natural Language Processing (NLP) and neural network algorithms to deliver more human-like experience that is more satisfying to users and to execute tasks independently, so they can resolve customer queries. This is truly helping small firms punch above their weight for customer experience.” —Chetan Dube, CEO, IPsoft

If the sophistication of AI-based entities increases to the point where businesses – even micro-enterprises – can buy the AI assistant they need off-the-shelf, then true democratization of these technologies could take place. Clearly, how you implement a digital assistant will be unique to each business. But these assistants are coming. Decades ago, digital assistants were attempted but failed as their underlying technology wasn't mature enough. Today, we are entering a new era of AI-enhanced services and workers.

Read the full story and more related stories on Forbes

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