How AI is already impacting the workplace
We have spent over a century theorising about the shape and form that AI will eventually take. We have fictionalised it in the form of Arthur C Clarke’s malevolent HAL… or Douglas Adams’ more benign Marvin. More often than not, we have discussed it as something that will characterise the future. But the truth is, it is already here and has been for some time. And its integration into the workplace and our lives more generally is more of a continuum than a one-off event.
The recent emergence of ChatGPT, the imminent launch of Microsoft Copilot and the continuing evolution of the Metaverse have given momentum to the AI revolution. How will it impact your life, company and workplace?
What exactly is artificial intelligence?
Put simply, AI is intelligence demonstrated by machines with human-type capabilities (such as learning). Artificial intelligence was founded as an academic discipline in 1956 and in the years since has experienced several leaps forward. Systems that can plan, reason, share their reasoning with us, and learn are already providing immeasurable benefits to our lives. They also reduce operating costs and increase profitability. Needless to say, this goes hand-in-hand with fears about its potential for negative disruption – particularly in the unskilled labour market.
We’ve been talking about it for sixty years
The term machine learning was coined in the 1960s and refers to patterns in data being recognised in order to “learn”. If this is a major step forward, it is because software can analyse data to make predictions, formulate rules and even make recommendations for action – without the need for specific programming. And then there is deep learning which takes this process even further: even larger datasets can be used and the need for human input is minimised. Nowadays, we think nothing of talking to our telephones and computers… or unlocking them by looking at them. Deep learning is responsible for the speech and image recognition and natural language processing that this involves.
We have become accustomed to using Alexa, Siri and other voice assistants. But until recently, it has been surprisingly difficult for them to make sense of human language, let alone generate or respond to it. Machine learning has made natural language processing possible – computers can now understand the contents of documents, including the contextual nuances of the language within them.
Then there’s robotics. Production lines – such as those in the automotive sector – have been using robotics to automate physical tasks for decades now. But increasingly, it features the use of algorithms or sensors. Robotics is now used with everything from assisting surgery to inspecting sewers.
How will AI impact the workplace tomorrow?
It is already impacting our everyday lives and our patterns of work. We might not be explicitly aware of it, but smartphones, shopping websites and factories are packed with AI. According to The State of AI, a McKinsey global survey published in 2021, 56% of respondents made use of AI for at least one purpose. And surprisingly, that figure increases to 57% in emerging economies. This trend is set to continue – many companies, including Investment Quorum – have incorporated automation and digitisation into their long-term corporate strategies.
There are other areas in which AI is poised to feature more prominently. Virtual reality and augmented reality technologies are converging within the Metaverse, creating an Internet into which you can immerse yourself for work, as well as for entertainment and leisure activities.
Already, shared virtual spaces are blending with the physical world, revolutionising the way we train, collaborate and communicate. Banks are already using AI to analyse large numbers of transactions and prevent fraud. FinTech apps such as Revolut and Monzo can automatically block suspicious transactions or flag them up for further investigation. And AI is being used in cybersecurity to unearth and block threats.
As natural language processing evolves, so too are the capabilities of chatbots and digital assistants. They are now able to communicate with users using natural language, rather than simply answering yes / no questions. The result is enhanced client service and more time for employees to deal with more complex client queries.
According to the WHO, we will need some 18 million additional healthcare workers across the world by 2030. We already have apps that utilise AI to perform certain routine tasks, as well as help with hospital management and medical diagnosis. This gives doctors and other healthcare workers more time to spend with patients.
AI is transforming how companies recruit people – as well as automating payroll and other routine tasks. Increasingly, it is being used to filter profiles during the recruitment process. AI can look at CVs, draw up shortlists and schedule interviews. Companies can streamline the recruitment process, saving time and reducing costs. They can also use AI simulations for training purposes. And at the other end of the equation, people looking for a job can use AI to find positions that are most appropriate for them and to prepare likely interview questions and answers.
Concerns about AI and the future
People have been worrying about the consequences of automation on employment for centuries. But in actual fact, according to some reports, AI will actually create jobs – as many as 890 million by 2030.
AI does not set out to automate absolutely everything – just the more mundane, less gratifying tasks. People are still needed to supervise processes and intervene when things go wrong. AI will not replace us. Rather, it will augment our everyday lives, enabling us to work more efficiently so we can focus on tasks that are more satisfying and provide more scope for innovation and creativity. For instance, digital marketers and graphic designers can utilise AI to create computer-generated images of anything they can imagine with just one click.
The proliferation of AI means a growing demand for programmers, statisticians, data scientists and data analysts… as well as for people to do jobs that involve creative and emotional intelligence (to perform tasks that AI is not yet good at).
AI can help us in the workplace
The potential for economic gains is enormous. Those gains will be in the form of consumer demand – AI will make many products easier to manufacture and so more affordable. Indeed, according to some estimates, AI will contribute up to US$15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030. Evidence has shown that productivity increases dramatically when people are not overwhelmed by dull, humdrum tasks.
According to PwC’s Sizing the prize report, 44% of companies use automation as a way of maximising productivity.
Since AI doesn't need time off and can be available 24 hours a day, it can watch out for evidence of fraud and handle client queries, meaning time and resource savings.
Machine learning played a key part in developing several COVID vaccines: when resources are freed up, productivity increases and complex problems can be solved more easily.
Increasingly, AI is being used to generate ideas in brainstorming sessions. People are interacting in virtual spaces in the Metaverse, and AI is being used to give companies an understanding of what consumers want (so that the right products can be designed, produced and marketed). In short, AI is helping companies to innovate so they can stay relevant.
We are using AI at Investment Quorum
AI is very much a part of our own workplace, and it is paying off. We are seeing a significant return on investment and are using it in several key areas to modernise our processes and maximise efficiency so that you, the client, benefit.
We know that it is bringing with it major changes in the way in which people do their jobs. Encouraging employees to view it as a force for positive change is important. It needs to be seen as something that can help them so they can use their skills more efficiently and be more creative.
In terms of our investment into AI, IQ’s Adventurous and Worldwide strategies hold a number of funds which are directly mandated to invest in companies that are expected to benefit from the growth of AI. This includes companies that provide infrastructure and software, as well as those that develop and utilise AI technologies.
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