Louise Cooper, Journalist at CooperCity discusses her thoughts on our latest Big Question – how will AI affect the workplace?
After attending the world’s largest conference on Artificial Intelligence in London recently, I know now what my eight year old son will be studying at university – Maths (or possibly Data Science). I have seen the future and it is machine learning!
My gobsmacking moment was in a presentation from the Chief Technology Officer at Trainline.com. He posed a situation I have found myself in: a parent booking train tickets for a family visit to Paris. Trainline’s AI, he explained, can source from external data and point out to me that my scheduled arrival time in Gare Du Nord coincides with a football match, and that maybe I might want to consider changing my travel time.
Now that is adding value to my stressed-travelling-with-kids-life.
In the conference’s opening speech, Greg Clarke, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, stressed how the UK was one of the world’s centres of excellence for AI. And that this expertise is long standing:
"The UK is in a strong position to be among the world leaders in the development of artificial intelligence during the twenty-first century. Britain contains leading AI companies, a dynamic academic research culture, a vigorous start-up ecosystem and a constellation of legal, ethical, financial and linguistic strengths located in close proximity to each other. Artificial intelligence, handled carefully, could be a great opportunity for the British economy."
Artificial intelligence, handled carefully, could be a great opportunity for the British economy.
Greg Clarke - Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Brian Williams, UK Credit Manager from Aramex may agree, the global delivery firm has already begun its advantageous AI journey: “We have a lot in process automation especially in the courier side and it has really advanced (our business). There are a lot of benefits for the suppliers and for the customers.”
Half of REED customers questioned are excited about AI, and for a country with low productivity, it should provide a much needed boost.
Yet, only 4% of those questioned say they have got AI systems up and running. That may show the difficulty of making the technology work in the real world.
Elon Musk has built the most roboticised factory in the world to manufacture his first mass market car, the Tesla Model 3. However it’s been beset with problems and Mr Musk admitted “excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake. Humans are underrated.”
Although computers have phenomenal processing power, they lack the sophistication of a human brain.
So for example I was talking with the head of marketing at Booking.com. He told me that their algorithms learn what sort of accommodation I prefer (2 adults, 2 kids, £100 a night, car park for the rented car, heated swimming pool to keep the offspring entertained, breakfast always included as I need caffeine early). Then they tailor my recommendations to suit me and mine. However if I suddenly splash out on a 5 star weekend stay their algorithms may then offer me more of such top notch accommodation. AI lacks the finesse to “realise” this may be a one off wedding anniversary celebration.
And in recruitment the personal touch is deemed important according to Ian Stammers, owner of Satellite Talent: "In recruitment AI would take away the personal and emotional touch. If you automate everything and the candidate has not once spoken to anyone from an agency or the company, then it’s a recipe for disaster. Candidates like to ask questions, be prepared and discuss (the opportunity) before even applying. I can’t see AI happening (in my industry)."
In recruitment AI would take away the personal and emotional touch.
Ian Stammers, Owner of Satellite Talent
Of course what many of us fear is that we will become obsolete, intelligent computers will take over our jobs. However, Reed Accountancy & Finance customers think there will still be a place for humans. Only 11% think AI makes them feel out of date.
Financial Controller, P Brown says: “I don’t think it will necessarily cut jobs as much as it will improve people’s skillset”.
Let’s just hope so.