This month my blog posts are around trending tech issues. We hear a lot in the news about technology and a few trends were mentioned briefly at the NZPI conference. It got me thinking about how we connect these big tech news stories with what is happening in our lives and professional practice.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
We hear the media talk about robots taking jobs – the visual is often the robot worker facing off directly against its human counterpart. It is more complex than this though. It is not about a robot designed to do your job as you do it. It is redesigning your job, or parts of it, so a computer can do it. It won’t be a human-looking robot, it will be a new program in the technology which already exists around us.
For our professions, AI-infused Expert Automation and Augmentations Software “EAAS” is the term to watch. This is software which can perform cognitive tasks such as writing, information processing, research and navigating processes by making decisions on how to proceed to the next step.
Sounds like many of the tasks we are doing now, right?
Here is an article on one such AI start-up disrupting work in the legal profession Article on Text IQ
The most important message for us to take away about AI is that our professions are not immune. We have seen industrial automation clear factories of blue collar workers, but white collar workers in professions will be next, starting at the clerical end including junior professionals.
We also face a new generation of graduates starting their careers and not being satisfied to do a task which a computer can do. The education curriculum is undergoing major changes to teach computational thinking so that students can better design technology to complete a task for them rather than doing it themselves. In the future, our education system will be producing graduates who simply will not be satisfied with doing tasks which they know AI can be doing. When experienced professionals use these tasks as training grounds for professional work, they are not making best use of the next generation’s skills and new perspectives. How will we resolve this issue?
At this year’s NZPI conference in Tauranga I spoke about Amelia the digital worker who is already deployed in some UK authorities to help residents to prepare and lodge their planning applications. She is not a robot sitting at a planner’s old desk, she is a virtual worker pre-programmed with all the common FAQ’s plus the ability to analyse new questions and come up with appropriate answers from a set of materials. And she can deal with many residents simultaneously so there is no more sitting on hold waiting for a human worker.
Here is an old post of mine on digital disruption of our professions, which is a useful companion to this post. AI is the technology which will bring this digital disruption to our work.
For me, the most exciting part about AI is it teaches us about what is special with humanity. Tasks which can be done with AI probably were not the tasks which humans found interesting and rewarding anyway. We have all felt the pressure of keeping up with the information generated by today’s technology. Freeing up our time from processing this data and allowing ourselves to focus on things that only humans can do, will be good for us all.