The news that 6 million people in the UK fear that their jobs will be replaced by machines within the next decade, naturally gets a person thinking. There are the existential questions – which any fans of Philip Larkin’s poetry or The Smiths’ lyrics will have been contemplating for a number of decades already - as well as the discussion around what impact increased automation and artificial intelligence will have on the global economy and, more profoundly, on what are presently considered societal norms.
Could the mass disappearance of human-fulfilled roles exacerbate the gap between the haves and have-nots? What will people do with all their free time? If we haven’t got jobs, then where will we get money from? These are scary thoughts to contemplate.
However, should shifts in the way we work really be feared? Human history is full of moments in time when the traditionalists confront the innovators, trying to put a brake on change.
An overt example where recent adjustments in human behaviour as a response to technology advances is in the retail sector. Online shopping is regarded as a factor in the “death of the high street” and, along with it, the loss of shop workers’ jobs. But it has also resulted in an increase in roles in web design and software, warehousing and distribution, packaging manufacturing and recycling, and courier work. Also, as the high street has changed as shops close, restaurants, bars and hotels move in to replace them and, consequently, a new set of job opportunities from chefs to taxi drivers, bouncers to bar staff arise. In manufacturing, it could be argued that automation has enabled artisans to differentiate their skill set from mass producers of similar items. The net result of all these changes is that the consumer sees enhanced choice options.
Technological intervention succeeds best is when it enables work to be done more efficiently, more effectively, quicker, cheaper, safer and more accurately. In the world of analytics and data, it has long been the case that production of information needs to be scheduled and automated, rather than a user having to request manually each time. This allows for more information to be garnered and, consequently, gives birth to the concept of ‘big data’, and, logically you would think, greater insight and intelligence.
Here at Code Software, we have harnessed AI with the introduction of our report generation bot, given the suitably androgynous name of Codie. The natural next step for this application is to incorporate voice activated requests for data, including voice recognition to enable greater security and easier access. For now, if you’re a sales manager on your way back from an appointment or an operations director on your way to a board meeting, all you need to do is contact Codie through your IM client and it will send the requested information to your inbox within seconds, removing the need to log into or interrogate the UC Analytics system. It’s a long way from inducing fears about what it means to be human, and it is extremely handy.