Last year was dubbed the year of artificial intelligence and for good reason. The technology really hit the mainstream last year, with Google Home, Amazon Alexa, self-driving cars coming on in leaps and bounds, and of course, Amazon GO, the online retailer’s AI-enabled store.
But for every good headline, several negatives usually followed. Most of these centered around potential job losses, with many predicting that entire industries would be wiped out. The reality, however, is far less apocalyptic.
Practically all industries are going to be affected in some way by AI, but there isn’t going to be mass unemployment. However, the way we work is going to change significantly. Perhaps this year should be known as the year of augmented intelligence. This is what’s really going to make waves, and it holds huge untapped potential for businesses as they embrace the workforce of the future.
Artificial intelligence describes a type of technology that is developed to imitate human intelligence. Augmented intelligence has been used for decades to describe how technology supplements human intelligence. Desktop computers, email and smart home technology are all different forms of augmented intelligence. The term is now being used to describe what AI is going to do for us. It’s not going to replace workers, it’s going to make them better.
A few years ago, M&C Saatchi unveiled a concept AI-powered poster campaign, which altered its ad according to consumer feedback that was collected via a camera installed in the screen. Fast-forward a few years and it isn’t too ambitious to imagine this kind of technology in common use by businesses worldwide.
AI doesn’t need to be as public as a poster campaign. Studies show that around 15% of adults in the U.S. currently own an Amazon Echo or Google Home, with a 128% increase in ownership since January 2017. We’re becoming increasingly used to asking virtual assistants to schedule meetings, remind us of tasks and purchase our groceries. This use of AI is only going to grow, as virtual AI assistants enter workplaces. When it does, our time and resources will be freed for higher-level tasks, instead of the routine admin that AI will take over.
Instead of reacting with fear, when we consider AI in our workplaces, we should be focusing on its potential. AI is going to make our jobs easier, not extinct. Our work is going to get far more intelligent thanks to AI, but human intelligence will still be required in some form. So, the next time someone mentions AI, think of augmented intelligence, instead of artificial. That’s the nature of the beast we are dealing with. It’s the workforce of the future.