“Are robots really coming for our jobs?” was the provocative question at the heart of the “impact of technology on the world of work” panel. It is a question as old as industrialisation, and the answer remains broadly the same: robots will make work more human.
“A lot is spoken about AI, but it is not so much artificial intelligence that we need as authentic intelligence,” commented Jan Sturesson, the founder of the consultancy Resting. Voice recognition, process automation, predictive analysis and the rest are tools which will save us time and effort. Yet the results they produce will need to be curated by a human in order to give the authenticity that clients, partners and colleagues require.
These tools will be so powerful that some are referring to them as “digital workers”. They are set to become central to teamwork, carrying out processes quickly and accurately. The result will be more human-centred organisations, with personal interactions improved as individuals have more time and better data.
Nevertheless, there is no hiding the reality that automation can be a worry for staff who are liable to be affected. James Dening, Vice President of Automation Anywhere, recommended tackling this in an open, honest fashion. “I worked with an insurance company which promised employees a share of the time that resulted from efficiency gains,” he said. As well there should be upskilling programmes to ensure there is maximum by-in from staff.
Mr Sturesson called for a “Skills New Deal”: a concerted effort by businesses and governments to equip the workforce with the broad-based skills which will be required in this new environment. “We will need experts, but they must also be able to work well beyond their core areas,” he noted.
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(Image source: ALFI Funds)