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August 25, 2015 Howard Lear 0 Comments

The A.I. Dilemma

 On May 4th, ClickSoftware organized a panel debate in London concerning the topic of A.I., under the heading Assisted Intelligence vs Artificial Intelligence. The panel was composed of: 

Roger Trapp, Moderator, formerly of the Financial Times and the Independent on Sunday.

Mark Bishop, Professor of Cognitive Computing at Goldsmiths, University of London

Dan O’Hara, Senior Lecturer in English, New College of the Humanities

Steve Mason, VP of Channels at ClickSoftware

George Zarkadakis, Novelist, Science Writer, and Digital Transformation Consultant

We previously posted two reviews of the debate, outlining and expanding on the questions, fears, and potential answers and solutions to the issues that the panelists brought to the table.

 The first post addressed the first round of concerns and fears, especially surrounding the workplace, and at the end, a questionnaire was offered to readers to express their concerns about being replaced by A.I. The second post took up the results of the questionnaire, which showed that many are worried they’ll be made redundant by A.I., despite that it could relieve the drudgery of certain human tasks and allow us more creative latitude with our work.

 As the topic of A.I. looms ever larger and becomes more pressing, certain issues continue to arise about its potential, especially as it pertains to the workplace. Therefore, this, our third and final post of the series on whether we should fear or embrace A.I. , poses five questions that delve further into its benefits, opportunities, and overall impact, and answers them by drawing on interviews conducted of the panel experts. 

1. What are the Benefits of A.I.?

Each of the panelists, in his own way, made the case for A.I. having tremendous benefits, especially in the workplace. Mark Bishop, in particular, emphasized the potential for A.I. increasing economic efficiency, especially in the e-commerce world:


 Imagine you’re an “e-tailer,” looking to purchase inventory and you’re having to compare which suppliers offer the best quality items for the least money, both in the price of the item plus shipping. Wouldn’t you love a piece of technology that compares every last detail for you and shows you the best course to take? Of course you would. It would save you a ton of time and headaches, allowing you to actually enjoy being the entrepreneur you dreamed of. The thrust of Bishop’s evaluation on this point is that A.I. in the business realm is simply a part of “working smarter,” especially if you’re trying to reduce both the costs of doing business and the wear and tear of stress.  

2. How Will A.I. Continue to Impact the Workplace?

 On the flip side, you have the average middle-class, blue-or-white-collar worker who truly is afraid of being made redundant, because his work is entrenched in the old way of doing things. They see A.I. as a threat to their jobs, and their jobs are their primary life stability.

 Yet what they don’t quite realize is that they may not lose their jobs after all. Imagine technology taking the grumpy mumble out of Mondays by doing the mundane, boring analytical bits that can easily be done with apps, computers, etc, and allowing the workers to learn new skills that they may never have had the time to, or to draw on more creative abilities they may never had had the room for previously.

 This is the kind of potential positive impact that George Zarkadakis mentions when discussing how A.I. will impact the workplace. How many people have you heard of leaving their jobs because there were “too many” opportunities to be creative at work? 


3. What Are the Opportunities We Should Be Looking For With A.I.?

There’s a whole aspect of using A.I. to assist field technicians, such as those specializing in computer-based maintenance. Steve Mason makes special mention of the potential ability to track several computers and pass on to field techs assignment data all at one time. If you have an automatic notification to repair three machines at once, for example, you would make all your rounds in one go instead of going to each order then going back to the office, going back out, and then coming back. Mason sees the benefits as expanded exponentially with the development of the “Internet of Things, something ClickSoftware has embraced by integrating it into our solutions, whereby a field technician is automatically assigned a task when a sensor notices a problem needing urgent attention.  

 You can learn more about how the Internet of Things works and its impact from this report.



  4. How is A.I. Impacting Productivity In the Workplace?

Just when you couldn’t think of how A.I. could make you any more productive than you already likely are, Mason chimes in again, pointing out that companies who embrace A.I. for in a wide scope of usage, typically see an increase in productivity.  

Surely in the service industries, increased productivity and improving the service to the customer goes hand-in -hand with faster delivery times. Well, you can’t argue with that! Faster delivery times make customers happy, and you’ll be happy that you are better able to fulfill the customer’s needs, as well as likely to be able to cut down on business costs and perhaps even your carbon footprint. It’s win-win all around.  

5. Should We Fear or Embrace A.I.?

 Now, regardless of all this positive spin on A.I., let’s cut to the chase with the overarching question still lurking in people’s minds: should we embrace or fear it?

 Many are concerned primarily about the work-related aspects of A.I., namely whether they’ll be made redundant. They’re not likely to hear too much about the articles that A.I. and tech geeks tend to read, so this is the demographic whose immediate fears must be calmed.

 Other people, like Mark Bishop, fear the existential aspects of A.I. As recently as July 28th of this year, there was an open letter from these ‘other people’: Representing approximately 1,000 tech gurus – among them Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and tech genius Elon Musk among, as well as cosmologist Stephen Hawking – the letter ( pushes for the ban of potential “killer robots,” aka “autonomous weapons” which have the capability of seeking and taking out a target without human intervention.

 It seems like a legitimate question: how are humans supposed to embrace A.I. as a good thing, especially in the workplace, if the military is doing this kind of stuff? But Dan O’Hara doesn’t agree: he thinks just the opposite – that it’s not a legitimate question because, frankly, we don’t have much say about it. According to O’Hara, invention is “the mother of necessity” and it’s better to adapt and deal with the technologies that come along than to kid ourselves that we have a choice to do otherwise. 

On the other hand, as we know, A.I. can clearly be used for more helpful means – i.e. apps for the workplace and people’s personal lives, such as Siri, Cortana, and others. This is what the world of robotics, computer science, and science in general should be about: serving the greater good. So, in the face of the warning coming from Hawking, Musk & Co., here’s hoping that the greater good can triumph in the people’s minds, and that A.I. is friendlier than many, especially those in Hollywood, have made it out to be. 

What do you think?

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