Every few decades, a new technology or innovation is introduced that fundamentally alters the way we go about our daily lives. During the nineteenth century, it was the emergence of railways and electricity, while in the twentieth, it was the transistor. This led to the creation of mobile phones and computers – and then later the internet, which has revolutionised how we work and interact with people. Fast forward to 2018, and artificial intelligence (AI) is changing our lives at home and in the office in a major way.
With almost every new technology, there are those who are skeptical about the effect that it will have, especially when it comes to the workplace and any perceived threat to jobs. However, research by Adobe Document Cloud has revealed that, far from fearing for their future careers, two thirds of UK office workers are not fazed by the growth of emerging technologies like AI. In fact, advanced technologies powered by AI are already finding a place in the workplace, improving our working day and allowing us time to be more productive and creative– without many workers even realising.
So, in what ways is AI already impacting daily lives, and how will it enable future workforces to be smarter and faster?
AI for One, AI for All
The most direct benefit of AI is the improved efficiency and productivity it brings businesses, through automating tasks that were traditionally done manually. For example, in 2016 JP Morgan introduced a program called COIN, which is short for Contract Intelligence. COIN runs on a machine learning system that’s powered by a new private cloud network, and helps interpret contract agreements. Prior to this, the legal and HR departments spent up to 360,000 hours a year manually checking these contracts —time that has now been freed up to assist with business development.
With a recent survey revealing that workers across Europe are losing almost seven hours a week to poor processes and admin, the opportunity for AI to improve working conditions cannot be underestimated. To help solve this issue, x.ai introduced one of the earliest AI assistants, which is able to automatically schedule meetings and book flights, taxis or restaurants – cutting out the hours of back and forth to arrange these.
Another area set to benefit tremendously from AI implementation is cloud applications. At present, staff working across the cloud have access to ‘living documents’ – shared files which can be updated by anyone in real time. Soon, AI will turn these ‘living documents’ into content which is truly alive – being able to manage formatting, subtlety make suggestions or corrections to copy, and help keep team members informed of on-going changes. While small, these sorts of innovative improvements show how AI will help free up workers’ time spent on simple admin tasks. In turn, businesses will be able to focus on improving their products and services – potentially growing revenue in the process.
It’s Not All About AI
It’s clear that AI is already being used behind the scenes for many services we take for granted, helping workers be smarter and faster, while freeing them up to be more creative and focused on the parts of the job that really matter. However, for all its benefits, there are limits to the extent that workers want AI to automate their jobs.
Notably, many feel that any job requiring creativity cannot be replaced by technology – as it lacks the ability to develop new ideas or thoughts. In order to help reassure workers that AI won’t be replacing creative roles in the near future, Botnik, a community of developers and creatives, recently released a Harry Potter story written by an AI. Humorously titled Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash, the writing was largely nonsensical and incoherent. To make the most of AI in the office, whether it be for admin or creative work, it’s important to remember that AI is only as effective as the tools it is given and needs to work in tandem with humans.
As AI systems continue to learn and adapt based on the experiences it is exposed to, these systems have immense potential to bring real benefits to UK productivity levels and how efficient we can be as humans. Advances in processing capabilities, making technologies faster and smarter than ever before, as well as growing amounts of data storage in the cloud, mean that AI still has a great deal in store for businesses and consumers. Rather than fearing this new technology, we should be kick-starting conversations surrounding AI and asking how we can harness it to improve our future experiences in the workplace.