For a while now, Artificial Intelligence has been a big buzz word in the world of technology. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai famously said “AI is one of the most important things humanity is working on. It is more profound than…electricity or fire”.
The technology has been the topic of expert panel discussions on changing job roles, it’s led countries to establish a national task force to understand the impact, while business luminaries like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have had public disagreements on the costs and benefits of leveraging AI in the future.
In a book called “Human + Machine – Reimagining work in the age of AI”, the authors Paul R. Daugherty – Chief Technology and Innovation Officer of Accenture and James Wilson, Managing Director of Information Technology and Business Research at Accenture Research lay out a comprehensive framework on what to expect in the future.
The authors assert that in many cases, AI “is freeing up time, creativity and human capital, essentially letting people work more like humans and less like robots.”
From “Supply chains that think” to “farms that feed”, from exploding possibilities in the world of design to “customer-aware shops”, a number of new innovations are already here, they are not away in the near or distant future.
The most compelling section of the book is the focus on what the authors call “the missing middle” – while too much of attention is spent on which jobs machines will replace, and on the other end jobs that humans will uniquely do, there is a large section of jobs in between. It’s what the authors call – human and machine hybrid activities. While some jobs will involve humans complementing machines, some jobs will amplify human skills using AI.
Traditional processes, the authors assert will become more dynamic and adaptable. “Instead of visualizing process as a straight line with a collection of nodes along a straight line, it might help to see it as a sprawling network of movable, reconnectable nodes…the liner model for process no longer cuts it.”
From AI trainers – who will need to understand and leverage the power of data, to explainers – who will be the bridge between technologist and business leaders as AI systems become opaque, to sustainers – who will oversee the performance of machines and will impose restrictions when needed, there are a number of questions that business and technology leaders will have to reflect on.
In this context, the author assert that AI systems with poor performance should be decommissioned or demoted. Imagine that these tasks will be the responsibility of a “machine relations manager” – who will “function like HR managers, except they will oversee AI systems, not human workers”
From a leadership perspective, the authors suggest a guide to help think through the challenges ahead. MELDS – which stands for Mindset, Experimentation, Leadership, Data, and Skills will be critical to business leaders. In a section of the book on skills, the authors foresee a number of new “fusion” skills that will define the future – taking judgement calls when the machine is uncertain, knowing how to ask questions of AI, working with AI agent to extend human capabilities.
As we step into what looks like a sci-fi era of work, with augmented tools to manage work-life, the book presents a blueprint that HR and business leaders should use to not only reflect on some of the key questions that faces the world of business, but to also fundamentally re-think the way businesses are run today.
Book: Human + Machine - Reimagining work in the age of AI
Author: Paul R. Daughtery and H. James Wilson
Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press