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As organizations explore how software robots — or bots — can help automate administrative tasks and decisions, it pays to keep in mind some of the risks that come with the territory.
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Though AI is far from perfect, vast training data has given smart systems formidable accuracy in making independent decisions. Yet even as these decision-making capabilities improve, a Cold War history lesson reminds us that human involvement may still be needed to avoid intolerable consequences of incorrect AI decisions.
Most of us view our jobs as specialized or somehow differentiated, but the world of business and management increasingly feels otherwise. For many organizations today, the next big driver of job commoditization is automation driven by smart machines. Simply put, if a job is viewed as a commodity, it won’t be long before it’s automated. The key for workers whose jobs have traditionally seemed safe: Highlight the tasks that require a human touch.
Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson discuss the future of work and the global economy at the 2017 MIT CIO Symposium.
Many managers are excited about smart machines but are struggling to apply machines’ limited intelligence. Indeed, computers can process data just fine, but to generate competitive advantage from machine learning applications, organizations must upgrade their employees’ skills. Companies will also need to redesign employee accountabilities to empower and motivate them to deploy smart machines when doing so will enhance outcomes.
The 2017 Data & Analytics Report by MIT Sloan Management Review finds that the percentage of companies deriving competitive advantage from analytics increased for the first time in four years. Incorporating survey results and interviews with practitioners and scholars, the report finds that companies’ increasing ability to innovate with analytics is driving a resurgence of strategic benefits from analytics across industries. The report is based, in part, on MIT SMR’s seventh annual data and analytics global survey, which includes responses from 2,602 business executives, managers, and analytics professionals from organizations located around the world.
With the benefit of digital technologies, companies are using Big Data to identify supply chain risks and create early warning systems with much greater speed and precision. However, the ability to respond to these signals hasn’t advanced at the same pace.
Anxiety about the destabilizing role of technology is hardly new. When new labor-saving technologies were introduced in the British textile industry in the early 1800s, workers lashed out. Smithsonian Magazine writer Clive Thompson describes how their anger and violence boiled over.
Early adopters of software robots exemplify how companies generate tangible benefits via service innovations in three ways: (1) by developing an approach to service automation supported by top management, (2) by initiating effective processes that deliver value to customers and employees, and (3) by building enterprise-wide skills and capabilities. Managers interested in capturing the benefits of service automation need to pursue all three avenues.
Digital innovation is transforming every part of the company, from customer experience to business models to operational management. But it’s people who make companies work. The digital economy shouldn’t be one where automation squeezes workers — and managers — out, but one where computers help employees to collaborate fluidly, make decisions scientifically, and manage better with automation than they ever could without it.
We are past the point of debating whether human intuition can be replicated. Machine learning is already here. It will impact most companies over the next few decades and become part of everyday business life. Executives must quickly come to grip with how companies and industries will evolve.
Although it’s unlikely that a single system will be able to handle all strategic decisions, the narrow intelligence that computers display today is already sufficient to handle specific strategic problems.
Despite valid concerns about machines displacing workers, human labor isn’t going away any time soon. Tasks that cannot be substituted by automation are generally complemented by it. Still, while automation does not reduce the quantity of jobs, it may greatly affect the quality of available jobs. For workers to benefit from IT, human-capital investment must be at the heart of any long-term strategy for producing skills that are complemented, rather than substituted, by technological change.
Despite improvements in cognitive technologies, the “Jetson” dream managerial scenario of sitting back and letting machines do all the work is still far from reality. Decisions that executives face don’t necessarily fit into defined problems well suited for automation. Cognitive technologies will increasingly absorb the easiest aspects of executive jobs, but at least for the time being, countless decisions still require human engagement.
Managers don’t expect to see machines displacing knowledge workers anytime soon. Instead, they expect computing technology to augment rather than replace the work of humans. But in the face of a sprawling and fast-evolving set of opportunities, what forms should that augmentation take? Davenport and Kirby, authors of “Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines,” examine what cognitive technologies managers should be monitoring closely and what they should be applying now.
This free on-demand webinar offers context for understanding cognitive technology offerings. It focuses on what technology capabilities will be available — and what tasks will still require human input. Topics include artificial intelligence, automation, and business rules for making cognitive technology functional. Presenters Thomas H. Davenport and Julia Kirby are co-authors of the forthcoming book Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines.
The Internet of Things has plenty of hype — it’s going to be big, really big — but also plenty of detractors. The naysayers breathily predict everything from the surveillance state to a wrecked economy to people enslaved by machines. Here are nine bits of information to consider, from the way the Internet of Things will create (yet another) battle for control of the Internet, to the fact that the security of the Internet of Things is under fire before it even exists.
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