From automation and AI to digital mobility and virtual collaboration, technology is reshaping the very nature of work. As digitization and the rise of machine intelligence transform business enterprise, organizations are increasingly under pressure to redesign their workflow processes.
Building on algorithms and machine learning, business leaders must now balance the unique capacities of their workforce with the inherent strengths of AI. Leaders across a range of organizations now need to determine which tasks to automate, which tasks to augment, and which tasks to leave to humans.
AI and machine learning are part of a creative transformation that will reshape the nature and function of industrial organizations. Where the Agricultural Revolution harnessed domesticated animals for pastoral farming, and the Industrial Revolution adapted machines for factory production, so today the Computational Revolution is leveraging computers to augment human intelligence. Augmented intelligence reflects the ongoing impact of AI in amplifying human capabilities and represents an alternative conceptualization of the meaning of “artificial intelligence.”
Humans + Machines
The use and application of AI and machine intelligence will be the basis for the leading professions of the 21st century. As technology reshapes the nature of work, human innovation will be critical to advancing the frontiers of business enterprise. Across a hyper-connected global economy, cycles of innovation are accelerating and becoming shorter and steeper. Fifty years ago, a company’s tenure on the S&P 500 lasted 60 years. Today that time span is less than 15 years. At this rate, by 2027, 75 percent of companies on the S&P 500 Index will be companies that have yet to be invented.
This creative destruction will only expand as augmented intelligence reshapes the nature of the business enterprise. AI is expected to augment a range of professions including medical diagnosis, technical writing, healthcare support, accounting, forensic science, legal services and finance.
But what precisely does an augmented workplace look like? In the legal profession, AI is already performing rudimentary tasks overlapping contract formation, divorce proceedings, legal discovery, and even arbitration. More dramatically, AI is being used to rethink the design of organizations. Amazon’s Amazon Go prefigures a new generation of retail stores that have no checkout and no customer service.
Even as technology transforms a wide range of industries, human capacities for meaning-making, empathy, and creativity will be critical to driving business innovation. Financial services companies like American Express, for example, use data analytics and machine learning algorithms to support fraud detection. But they also use the same data to focus on enhancing customer service delivery. In this same way, luxury giant Burberry uses big data and AI to nurture deep, personal connections with its customers, while the luxury hotel brand Dorchester Collection uses custom AI analytics to shape their product line in real-time.
Building on the assistive role that computers now play in advancing human capabilities, the future of work will increasingly require human and machine intelligence. Nonetheless, AI-driven workplaces will be very different from the past. According to research by the consulting firm PwC, one-third of all jobs could be converted into software, robots, and autonomous machines by the early 2030s. This includes a first wave of automation for simple computational tasks and analysis of structured data, impacting data-driven sectors such as financial services. This is followed by a second wave of automation impacting clerical support and decision making, as well as robotic tasks in semi-controlled environments. New technology companies will only accelerate this process.
Even as machine learning experts become fixtures of the workplace, the merger of humans and machines will be critical to advancing business enterprise. Combining computer vision and human ingenuity, for example, AI-driven startups like Crowd AI are introducing entirely new business models for managing satellite imagery data. In real estate, companies like Lemonade are transforming homeowners insurance by reducing bureaucracy through bots and machine learning while expanding customer support. In healthcare, startups like Deep 6 AI are developing tools to expand the pool of patients available for clinical trials, while Freenome uses AI-based genomics to detect and treat cancer.
Governing in the era of augmented intelligence
We stand at an inflection point in history. Rather than framing government policies and incentives to support employment opportunities within industries that are in decline (i.e., transportation, retail, office administration, telemarketing, data management, etc.), it’s important to incentivize innovation and employment across industries that hold the most potential to expand alongside technology. Industries that are particularly dependent on human creativity and personal engagement (e.g., the arts, tourism, entertainment, sports, education, healthcare, etc.) will remain highly valuable even as machine learning eliminates routine work.
Beyond the bureaucratic organizations of the Industrial Age, workers must be better educated and trained to leverage augmenting technologies in conjunction with autonomous creativity to solve emergent problems. Beyond basic linear skills, competencies that build on network collaboration, digital fluency, and entrepreneurial enterprise are becoming foundational to an era of accelerating innovation. Indeed, the real challenge today is the need to transform the institutional structures that constitute the “industrial-age” organization itself.