AI in the Workplace: Augment, Instead of Replacing Humans


(Image: Shutterstock)

(Image: Shutterstock)

There's a perception of what artificial intelligence and machine learning mean to the breadth of the workforce: Truck drivers, middle managers, factory workers, even the programmers who teach the machines, all destined to unemployed years spent sprawled on the couch, watching soap operas, eating pizza, and swilling beer.

Granted, some out there might think that's a mighty fine way to live out their years. But don't call Dominos yet.

While all of us have thoughts about what AI means to the workplace, MIT assembled a panel of five experts who are close to the action, including several who build intelligent systems. They spoke at the MIT Sloan CIO Symposium in Cambridge, Mass., last week, on a panel discussion entitled "Putting AI to Work."

[Read the full article at InformationWeek]

James M. Connolly, Editor of All Analytics

Jim Connolly is a versatile and experienced technology journalist who has reported on IT trends for more than two decades. As editor of All Analytics he writes about the move to big data analytics and data-driven decision making. Over the years he has covered enterprise computing, the PC revolution, client/server, the evolution of the Internet, the rise of web-based business, and IT management. He has covered breaking industry news and has led teams focused on product reviews and technology trends. Throughout his tech journalism career, he has concentrated on serving the information needs of IT decision-makers in large organizations and has worked with those managers to help them learn from their peers and share their experiences in implementing leading-edge technologies through publications including Computerworld. Jim also has helped to launch a technology-focused startup, as one of the founding editors at TechTarget, and has served as editor of an established news organization focused on technology startups and the Boston-area venture capital sector at MassHighTech. A former crime reporter for the Boston Herald, he majored in journalism at Northeastern University.

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Re: Robot revolution
  • 6/30/2017 8:29:32 PM
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Kq4ym, interesting that you bring up the possibility of guaranteed living wage with the anticipated job losses. Clearly changes will have to be made in our system for wealth distribution as working wages had been the key vehicle. The unavailability of enough jobs for everyone will make our present system socially unacceptable. Northern European countries are looking to address this concern already with a government supported guaranteed minimum income for everyone.

Re: Robot revolution
  • 6/8/2017 7:34:42 AM
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It would be interesting to see some number on how jobs have changed over the decades and maybe more interesting how the average salaries have adjusted accordingly and how employment/unemployment in various sectors have changed. Most of our ancestors were farmers only a hundred and fifty years ago and that's something to think about.

Re: Robot revolution
  • 6/5/2017 10:22:56 AM
NO RATINGS

I wonder if any future world of machines and AI may be so transorming that not only will there be a a move towards more leisure time or most, a possible buyer's economy due to increasingly smaller costs to produce products and services, but maybe more importantly a move to guaranteed incomes for all, or at least a living wage to be shared by all?

Re: Robot revolution
  • 6/5/2017 8:13:02 AM
NO RATINGS

Yes, some companies do have many more people in marketing roles and it may be side effect of the internet.  I don't think it is only the birth of the internet that has increased marketing, I think a large part is the maturing of marketing in general.  Radio and television changed marketing in similar ways so I think the growth in these roles is part a natural progression.  I don't know that there has been such a large bump in analytics jobs but they are becoming more visible as data is being shared in new ways so they get a little more attention.  Without the internet, I think both disciplines still would have grown on TV and Radio platforms.

Re: Robot revolution
  • 6/4/2017 6:04:44 PM
NO RATINGS

..

Rboz writes

Lost of jobs as they exist today, yes. But to be sure new ones will be created because we will undertake new challenges and opportunities in the process. When the automobile was introduced, many feared job loss because the horse was being replaced. Blacksmiths, livery attending, etc...., But auto mechanics, road building, etc.. came to be. Also, greater mobility generated more activity as drive-in movie, restaurants, leisure travel, etc... The new opportunities and challenges undertaken will open new unforseen jobs.

To some extent, I believe this may be true, but overall I still believe there will be substantial net job losses coming.

For example, I have no doubt that entrepreneurs will continue to create new gadgets, devices, apps, ways of doing things. Initially, new products may require human fabrication. However, this will most likely be outsourced to much cheaper labor abroad, especially in China and other Asian countries. Then the robotics will catch up to replace the human workers in fabrication.

Some maintenance work may be created for U.S. workers, but over time, this will diminish as more sophisticated robots are developed to perform routine maintenance on specific products.

What will likely bring everything down will likely be a crisis of overproduction vs. underconsumption. Robots can't buy the products they produce, while they've replaced human workers who could be paid, thus also becoming consumers. That market will largely evaporate.

 

Re: Robot revolution
  • 6/4/2017 9:04:19 AM
NO RATINGS

@James: I forget which panelist said it, but I was particularly appreciative of the "ditchdigger" analogy.

Indeed, as others have pointed out in the past, we could easily have greater employment in blue-collar jobs if we simply got rid of the tractor, motor vehicles, and many more 19th- and 20th-century innovations.

Re: Robot revolution
  • 6/4/2017 9:02:31 AM
NO RATINGS

@James: The funny thing about content marketing is that, when the concept was first explained to me, my response was, "Oh, you mean, like, marketing?"

The medium has changed, the terminology and buzzwords have changed, but it's still fundamentally the same.

Re: Robot revolution
  • 6/4/2017 9:01:22 AM
NO RATINGS

@SaneIT: Yeah, but now there are a LOT more of those marketing jobs. Social media whatevers weren't around pre-WWW. Same for "digital marketing yada-yadas". Yes, marketing is marketing, but the marketing department grew. Same for analytics. Same for all of those things.

Re: Robot revolution
  • 6/2/2017 2:06:42 PM
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True, those roles existed before the birth of the web, but not in the numbers that they do now. Companies today might have seven or eight people in marketing roles today when they had one or two in the mid 90s. I suspect there is similar growth in development (counting in-house people and contractors). I know there are more "content creators" today than we had reporters back in the day (although those content creators might not be paid as well as or predictably as those reporters and editors were). Of course there are fewer office "admins" than decades ago, but their loss is likely attributed to the birth of the PC combined with the corporate mentality of "we can do without them".

Re: Robot revolution
  • 6/2/2017 8:12:11 AM
NO RATINGS

Having been at the very beginning of E-commerce I don't think the web "created" many jobs.  It did help give birth to new businesses but most of the people who are in more technical positions were in similar not so technical positions that still exist.  Marketing, data analysis, process and controls, these all existed well before the birth of the internet.  The jobs have changed and become more technical but your social media manager is the evolution of marketing, etc.  

I can't say that I'd be disappointed if I became George Jetson and was responsible for one button, but I don't think we'll get there before I retire.  

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