Workplace of the future: collaboration of human and AI

Thursday 08 March 2018

Today the world faces one of its most daunting, but also exciting tasks - how organisations will transition into the future with Artificial Intelligence entering the workplace. However we look at it, AI directly threatens a large portion of the global workforce whose jobs will be competing with digitization, automation, and continuously improving AI. As the supposed AI apocalypse continues to encroach across different job sectors, we will see job skills start to evolve as companies adapt their work practices.

For comparison, the AI apocalypse is a bit like a digital version of the industrial revolution. With that said, we are moving into uncharted waters. In the past, workplace transformations occurred over centuries and decades, allowing obsolete job functions and skills to slowly and quietly creep into retirement. However, the speed of AI implementation is likely to be far more rapid, resulting in a challenge of retraining and reintegrating thousands of people into new jobs on short notice.


While history will ultimately decide whether or not future generations will call this the ‘AI Age’, what’s clear is that the transformation of the workplace will be at times jarring, and will certainly be subject to substantial grumbling from affected parties who will resent being forced to adapt, often mid-career.


However, with the pace of technology development and the increasing winner takes all trend in modern markets, businesses who do not keep pace and adapt to AI technology are likely to suffer the same figurative fate as those businesses which failed to adapt during the first industrial revolution.


We can take comfort however in the fact that despite the initial shock, technological advancements have traditionally always been a job creator in the long run. Looking beyond the challenges, AI has so much to offer. For instance, Google Chief Economist Hal Varian recently suggested that AI could be the solution to filling labour shortages caused by shrinking birth rates in rich countries.


Beyond the initial phase of competition for jobs in the workplace, AI and people will eventually be able to work together to maximize productivity. With AI being better equipped to handle mundane repetitive tasks, while human workers can focus on more complex issues and administrating to the AI. AI could also one day positively challenge the very way we think of the social contract, and our present culture of work for the sake of work may eventually become an obsolete concept.


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