2030. If Malikkhan Kotadia is right, this is the year that the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) will be commonly visible.
His prediction comes on the back of an 18-year career, of which 14 were spent in banking driving innovation. Today, he is a FinTech expert, thought leader and digital evangelist.
“The proliferation of AI is not a single incident, but a continuum. It has started, and like all high impact technologies, will go through a hype cycle, rapid adoption cycle and then mainstreaming,” he explains, after speaking at CommunicAsia2017 earlier this year.
“With the exponential growth of the Internet of Things, and entering the era of ‘ambient/hidden computing’, more and more systems and processes will be governed by AI – from customised products and solutions, to optimisation of public utilities and natural resources.”
Already, there are plenty of examples of AI in our lives.
Banks and airlines use chat bots and virtual agents to replace call centres. Every smartphone operation system has its own digital assistant (think Siri, Cortana and Alexa).
Google recently announced its image recognition-based search software, which will revolutionise the world of search. Similarly, the “smart vehicle” and autonomous vehicle industry is based on image or object recognition and deep learning.
In several industries, middle office jobs are being replaced by robotics.
One such example is COIN or contract intelligence, an AI programme that reviews commercial loan contracts and saves over 300,000 lawyer hours. Robot waiters and bartenders are being piloted onboard cruise liners, in airports and at restaurants.
Even the government is adopting the technology for purposes such as tracking aberrant patterns, to facial recognition, smart traffic planning and smart healthcare.
Naturally, this becomes a cause for concern and anxiety for the workforce. The 42-year-old is quick to allay those fears.
“The World Economic Forum calls this the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, driven by cognitive and ambient computing. Like in the previous three industrial revolutions, there will be pain and jobs losses.
“But a deeper insight reveals that the nature of work would change. While routine, repetitive tasks would be taken over by machines and AI, humans will climb up the value chain. Human ‘jobs’ will be driven by upskilling and specific capabilities in which they would continue to excel over machines.”
Kotadia suggests embracing and adapting AI at three different levels to stay ahead: government/social level, organisational level and individual level.
1. For governments and policy makers, the challenge lies in ongoing upskilling and preparing for a wave of workforce redundancies, at least in the short-term.
2. For organisations, this presents opportunities in the space of customer experience and cost savings by way of deploying virtual agents and digital concierges.
3. For individuals, embrace change proactively and upskill accordingly. While jobs requiring routine processing will become redundant, newer categories focused on leveraging AI will emerge.
Certainly, it is easier said than done, and the way forward can be a veritable minefield if not navigated carefully.
He points out that one major mistake would be to have a narrow objective than a strategic vision, “AI has to align with the overall strategy, and not be a tactical ‘to-do’ [item] for the CTO or CIO.”
Organisations need also be “very sensitive” to the human impact of AI, both for those impacted and those who aren’t.
This is where the human resources departments and top management should have a very clear road map for issues related to employee morale, upskilling and counselling.
Most importantly, Kotadia is emphatic about the fact that AI is not a project, “It will fundamentally change organisations and societies, and thus should be planned for accordingly.”
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