Will ‘AI’ Be The End Of Your Job, Or The Saviour Of Your Business?

The Startup Business - Dr Ross McKenzieIf you had not noticed, there are several conversations taking place about the potential impacts of Artificial Intelligence and related technologies such as automation and robotics.

It appears to me that there are those who see AI as an opportunity to take their business to the next level, to be innovative and disruptive.

There are also those who are concerned about AI in respect to the threat to their jobs and to the opportunities that may be available to their children.

This week I listened to some of these conversations…

The first was a lecture to business owners about the opportunities of technology and offshore outsourcing to reduce costs and hence increase profit.

There was even a comment that some offshore countries do not adhere to the same labour laws, so therefore for the business owner, they have greater flexibility for their business than they might have in their home country.

In the second conversation, it was a panel discussion hosted on television that consisted of eminent global scientists.

Here the question came up about the loss of jobs. From the scientist’s view point, they suggested there would be new jobs. Not sure what, but there will be new jobs because there always have been.

Finally, in the course of this week there has been the reporting of Google’s AI put to the test in a 3,000-year-old Chinese board game that is said to have more possible board configurations than there are atoms in the Universe! I think as of writing this article, man versus machine is running head to head, or head to chip!

So what are we to make of all this, the current AI narrative – where is it all going?

In Al Gore’s book of several years ago titled “The Future”, he writes about this phenomenon as being one of most significance and globally disruptive. Furthermore, publications such as The Economist and the management consulting firm, McKinsey have devoted significant resources towards research in this field as well.

Having reflected on all this research I thought I would share my thoughts and what I believe we should be doing. Perhaps this and your inputs may add to this current narrative

Firstly I beleive we need to accept that technology advances will continue – nothing stays the same.

In other words, steam trains are nostalgic, but they are not what is used by the main stream today, nor what we use today, will be what is used in the future.

Also, whether this is just a case of myself becoming older, but the pace of change of course continues to accelerate.

This therefore is just as relevant to how your business is being impacted, or about to be and if you are in a job, the relevancy of your current skills or value proposition.

Secondly, we need to recognise then, that there are those who will likely be advantaged and other less advantaged, or even isolated, as a result of these ongoing changes.

These two points then bring me to my proposition.

You see, I firmly believe it is essential that we move forward responsibly and ethically in terms of AI, technology, automation and robotics.

The upside possibilities will be remarkable; however, the downside threats need to be transparent and examined for all.

Where we are in a position of influence, then we take on this role seriously to ensure there are the right policies and practices in place for the day.

We make sure no one gets left behind, or the gap at least, does not get wider.

Of course the challenge in all this is in the implementation. But if we atleast start to expand the narrative of the social and ethical implications, then these advances will benefit all of us.

My view is that we live in societies, not economies and we must hold our selves accountable to move forward.

After, the stewardship of our future is in our hands today.

Automation Set To Affect Highly Skilled Occupations

“Automation Set To Affect Highly Skilled Occupations”

That’s not my headline. That’s the headline of an article in the December 2015 – January 2016 Company Director Magazine published by the Australian Institute of Company Directors and on page 16 mind you!

The Startup Business Solutions Automation Robotics AI Ross McKenzieThe same article paraphrases a McKinsey study which I quote:

“Artificial Intelligence and advanced robotics will have a more profound effect on the global workforce than is widely realised”

Why I am bringing this up, is that it is not that AI, robotics and automation is anything new. What is new, is that it is now being reported more in main stream publications and media channels.

You see manufacturing and logistics (think Amazon) have been pursuing the concept of automation ever since the days of Frederick Winslow Taylor and Henry Ford, progressing through to TQM and of course Six Sigma. You could say in the pursuit of greater and greater efficiencies. Its just that today there are better tools and this is now encroaching more and more into the service sector at a rapid pace. Nothing is sacred anymore.

Even in a recent edition of my daily newspaper, there was an article about Robo Advisors for wealth management

“Robo advisers are designed to take market share from humans who aren’t adding any value to customers” – Ian Dunbar

The other group or industry, that has been embracing automation is of course the digital marketers. But not just large companies. Small micro businesses are implementing automation into their online businesses with profound impact. For my own businesses, I have implemented automation extensively and will continue to do so as new capabilities become available, I also teach my clients to do the same.

Regardless of whether you are a large corporate, or a startup or a small micro online business, today, right now, you need to be implementing automation into your business if you haven’t already. Note also, I did not say “consider implementing”. The fact is that if you do not develop a strategy and then implement these disruptive technologies, you will be left behind.

So hopefully I have provided some context or rationale around “why” you should implement automation, the next step is of course the “what” followed by the “how” and then lastly the “who” or the vendor etc.

The only caveat I give you is that you need to keep peeking over the back of your shoulder to be on the look out for some disruptive entrant into your market place, because before you know it that market entrant could become a behemoth in a very short time.

Finally, whether robotics and automation can be used to train our fury friends to use our note pads for information rather than a meal, that will be another question for another time!

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