Artificial Intelligence and the human factor

By: Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells and Alexandra Whittington

Date: 21 August 2017

Artificial Intelligence and the human factorAs Artificial Intelligence (AI) becomes more prevalent in the workplace, business leaders will need to rise to the challenges it brings.

Roles that have traditionally required a high level of human intelligence are now being automated. Whilst this boosts efficiency, decision-makers must be mindful of how this could impact on brand identity and the user experience.

This is why it's essential, when embarking on the AI journey, to focus on the human dimension, by considering these five key questions:

  1. Responsibility. Should the IT department lead the way? Increasingly, the strategic nature of the decisions about AI are being taken by business leaders.
  2. Depth. AI can be used narrowly to automate a single task or it can be used to automate entire departments such as customer service. How deep to take AI will depend on the goals, priorities, resources and values of your business and where you see the place of people in service, innovation and sales.
  3. People. There is a growing risk that firms will become over-reliant on technology and ignore the value of humans. We need to think about how to invest in staff to maximise their potential with technology in an enabling role, how to care for those whose roles and departments are being disrupted by AI and how to raise everyone's digital literacy.
  4. Training. As AI becomes commonplace, employees' soft skills - such as sensitivity, creativity, verbal reasoning, communication, empathy and spontaneity - may become increasingly desirable. Businesses need to make the most of the interplay between personal and Artificial Intelligence.
  5. Balance. A simple bottom line approach to the implementation of AI will compromise the human element and could erode your firm's USPs over time. It will also be important to show compassion and support to employees displaced by new technology.

The gifts from AI to society include smarter decision-making, the ability to gain new insights from vast amounts of data, the potential for the cost-saving replacement of humans and efficiency-oriented applications.

However, ignoring the impact on employees could have serious consequences for customer relationships and business reputation. And the cost of widespread unemployment cannot be met by the state alone; private industry will almost certainly be expected to contribute to a solution.

Ultimately the future of work and the future of society are deeply entwined. Our sense of place in society, our worth, our contribution and our legacy are often predicated around our work. Anything that starts to disrupt that relationship between work and individual identity is going to have far-reaching impacts. On the plus side, humans have proved themselves to be remarkably adaptable to technological change.

AI is about trying to make our lives better. Just as the predictive text on your phone doesn't send runaway messages (usually) and the internet search bar sometimes knows you better than you know yourself, we as a society should anticipate AI's helpful (if at first clunky) role in the workplace over the coming decade.

Sponsored post. Copyright © 2017 Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells and Alexandra Whittington are futurists with Fast Future.