We are in the midst of the rise of the digital society and digital transformation marks the social paradigm shift that is to lead us to a new social order, in which information and communication technologies mediate for a better performance of people in all areas, including the workplace. The digital transformation rests mainly on recently growing disciplines, such as information and communication technologies (ICT) and information and communication technologies (ICT). cloudThe internet of things, telecommunications and artificial intelligence (AI).
There is much talk about whether the latter will end up taking people’s jobs, and there are many fears associated with all this dizzying technological progress that we have been witnessing in recent years.
However, we are far, very far, from artificial intelligence being able to replace human beings in their activities in an integral way. It is true that it will occupy a larger place in the space of technological assistance. In other words, we will have more systems based on artificial intelligence that will accompany us in our daily tasks, whether they are work-related or not, and will facilitate the development of many activities.
We will have intelligent tools that will be able to do some of them for us, either because they are repetitive or because they are heavy and of low cognitive level. Others will simply be simplified because an intelligent system will assist us to perform them collaboratively. The greater the cognitive complexity of the task, the more difficult it will be for the artificial intelligence to take it on alone, and here lies the protection of our workspace.
Let’s take an example: GPS
The GPS is today a well-known and widely used tool in any travel by land, sea and air. We can hardly remember what it was like to go around the world without those devices – pocket or attached to the vehicle – that we consult before starting a journey and that make us real co-pilots, taking us – without getting lost – to places we have never been, and neither have they.
These are artificial intelligence systems that solve one of the oldest problems in the area: planning. They are capable of assembling the necessary route to go from where we are to where we want, respecting the ground plans, without asking us to cross between buildings, or to go through a street in the opposite direction. And they do it based on position sensors and satellite communication.
Have you ever stopped to think what it has meant for the road freight transport sector to have GPS? Or for bus rental companies with drivers? Just think for a moment how many drivers have stopped getting lost on the road, and losing time and money for their companies. On the other hand, a GPS does not drive and, however sophisticated it may be, it does not make it possible to dispense with the driver, nor to reduce the company’s fleet of drivers.
This is an example of how intelligent systems are inserted as complements to work activity, help to increase the quality of service or performance and can operate a transformation of professions.
In this case, the impact is that the driver is less stressed, he no longer gets lost, deliveries arrive at the scheduled time, deliveries can be better planned globally because there is less uncertainty and, in the end, all this results in better quality of service and greater occupational well-being of the worker. What’s more, it improves customer perception and company positioning.
Advantages of automation
Other artificial intelligence systems are completely autonomous and perform tasks on their own, as robotic vacuum cleaners do when they set out to sweep a house. Or intelligent forklifts, which go about placing goods on storage floors. If the roombas sweeping may not need to be done by a person, and this may have some impact on household employment. But it is far more likely that he or she will have to learn how to operate the vacuum cleaner. smart and that, while the robot vacuums, it is engaged in some other task.
Artificial intelligence brings enormous potential for automating some low-cognitive tasks, and may even replace people entirely in several of them (such as sweeping or shelving). But the professions involve more tasks that, in all likelihood, will not be covered by machines, no matter how intelligent they may be.
What will happen will be that the task taken on by the machine (or the part of the task it takes on) will free up time that can be devoted to other fronts. We can cite a few, associated with different levels of responsibility in the labor hierarchy. The transformation will affect all categories and will allow, among other things:
Spend more time and perform the more complicated parts of the job better.
Have more time to interact with colleagues and gain team cohesion.
Invest more energy in dealing with the customer to better understand their needs and appreciations and thus gain better knowledge for product improvement.
Increase customer loyalty based on better service.
Open the necessary spaces for reflection to analyze the situation in perspective and make better decisions and define better strategies.
Ultimately, what should happen is that the time freed up by the use of intelligent machines can lead to an improvement in the quality of work or service, and that people can concentrate on those tasks that are beyond the reach of the machines, such as developing an empathetic relationship with colleagues and customers, or taking better care of the team, which must necessarily lead to an improvement in work results.
From another perspective, there is a myriad of systems based on artificial intelligence that consume huge amounts of data to obtain user profiles, learn about people’s tastes, needs and habits. These can also be used in the work environment so that one can, for example:
Avoid an accident on a construction site because machine vision sensors anticipate a human-machine collision.
Returning a product because it is no longer offered to a certain customer profile.
Reducing the impact of a sick leave on a team because we anticipated a heart problem in one of the members.
It is true that there are many ethical considerations about how and when personal data should be used in AI-based applications, and especially in the work environment, but there are also mechanisms to take advantage of these capabilities without violating the ethical principles promulgated from the European Commission, which propose the development of non-invasive and person-centered AI. In any case, these types of applications can increase safety and well-being at work, which again leads to an overall improvement in organizations.
On the other hand, the latest advances in natural language or voice processing also constitute a great opportunity to facilitate many tasks or increase the capabilities of some people. Think, for example, of:
Voice assistants that read manuals in places where a repair needs to be done in low light.
Information search engines that allow us to solve, without moving from the table, problems that we would not solve alone (these are already widely integrated into the working reality of many people).
Automatic translation tools that allow us to deal with foreign customers.
The overall improvement in an organization by being able to reduce incident or emergency management with predictive maintenance systems.
Smarter systems, less human specialization.
The digital transformation is realized with strong injections of artificial intelligence into organizations and their processes, transforms the way they work and provides important aids to facilitate tasks, freeing people from lower cognitive level activities, which, in turn, frees them from time and stress.
In the coming years we will witness a major transformation of organizations: some tasks will disappear and others more linked to technology will appear, although this change will not always be linked to job loss. What we must ensure, while this paradigm shift is taking place, is that those people most at risk of digital exclusion are not left behind because they do not know how to handle technology in the workplace.
Although it is everyone’s responsibility, it is interesting to note that, at the same time, a change is also taking place in the interaction of intelligent systems with people and less and less specialization is required to be able to use them. Nowadays many people operate a GPS, a roombaa machine translation system or a voice assistant without any technical knowledge.
It is to be expected that interfaces will continue to simplify, a key factor for an inclusive improvement in the world of work.
This article was originally published in issue 121 of Fundación Telefónica’s Telos magazine.
Karina Gibert, Professor and Director of the Center for Research in Intelligent Data Science and Artificial Intelligence
This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original.
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