Why Employees Shouldn’t Fear Artificial Intelligence

… at least not yet.

Much is being said about how AI (Artificial Intelligence) will replace human jobs. But if the digital past is any indication of the digital future, this threat may be greatly exaggerated.

How did previous threats play out?

The arrival of web conferencing was supposed to have threatened the airline industry.  But if you’ve read the news lately, you know that over-booked flights are a bigger problem for the airlines than under-booked flights.

The movie rental business was supposed to have ended the movie theater business.  But theaters are bigger than ever.

And on-line publishing was supposed to end the printed book business.  But it turns out books are doing just fine.

So what gives?  Is AI that different from previous digital developments that it will impact the working economy beyond our ability to adapt? Or is it just another phenomenon of the evolution that will enhance the human ability to produce?

To find the answer, let’s go where AI is already in use …

Where companies are currently using Artificial Intelligence

TATA Consultancy recently surveyed 835 companies in 13 manufacturing and service industries in North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America.  The purpose of the survey was to understand how AI is being used within the various business functions across each of the surveyed companies.

The findings should bring a sigh of relief to many of the employees who’ve been fearing for their jobs.  Headlines have been telling us that Artificial Intelligence will eliminate the need for service employees and knowledge workers.  But TATA’s survey results indicate otherwise.

 

TATA-Survey-Results-how-AI-is-used-by-companies

 

In fact, in many instances, AI has been making these employees more productive.  It’s accomplishing this by freeing the employees from having to perform manual analysis and related tasks.  A recent article in Harvard Business Review concludes that “Machine-to-machine” transactions are the low-hanging fruit of AI, not people-displacement.

Within the companies surveyed, AI is most frequently used to detect and prevent computer security intrusions in the IT department.  Instead of replacing security professionals, it’s allowing them to more effectively manage the increasing number of hacking attempts.  AI is enabling these existing employees to be more productive, and deliver greater value to their employers.

Specific applications of Artificial Intelligence

Another way these “early adapter” IT departments are using AI is to automate repetitive tasks such as putting new systems or enhancements into production.  And the IT employees who had spent their days doing these repetitive tasks?  In most cases, being relieved of these rote repetitive tasks is allowing them to get more “high value” work done.

While Artificial Intelligence may eventually displace some workers, response data indicate that the initial opportunity for AI is to better connect existing technologies.  Once AI has shored up our end-to-end processes, then perhaps companies will focus more on the human-to-technology areas.  Last I heard, there’s still a lot of work to be done connecting our current systems.

But again, if AI plays out the same way that previous digital scares have, the knowledge and service workers among us will continue to do what we do for many years into the future.  With the help of AI, we’ll probably be doing it better.