Gartner claims people are warming to AI

The power of artificial intelligence is unquestionable, but what remains unknown is how long it will take for the technologies to be considered mainstream. Are people afraid of the power of AI?

With every technological breakthrough it takes a considerable amount of time for mainstream adoption. There are of course early adopters who will reap the benefits of AI, but bell curves exist for a reason; the vast majority will be slow to react, scared of the unknown, resistant to any form of change or dismissive of the benefits. Despite this pretty much being an inevitability, Gartner is confident adoption is going pretty well.

“Four years ago, AI implementation was rare, only 10% of survey respondents reported that their enterprises had deployed AI or would do so shortly,” said Chris Howard of Gartner. “For 2019, that number has leapt to 37% – a 270% increase in four years. “If you are a CIO and your organization doesn’t use AI, chances are high that your competitors do, and this should be a concern.

“We still remain far from general AI that can wholly take over complex tasks, but we have now entered the realm of AI-augmented work and decision science – what we call ‘augmented intelligence’.”

This is where some of the biggest benefits can be realised according to Gartner. With a continued shortage of IT skills (and also in some niche/highly qualified professions) throughout the world, AI can be introduced to ensure the chasm of ability does not negatively impact revenues. How this idea has been implemented across the ecosystem does seem to vary quite considerably.

The research indicates 52% of telcos have deployed chatbots to assist with customer service operations, while 38% of healthcare providers rely on computer-assisted diagnostics. Fraud detection and IT security are other areas which have seen AI implementation, while the breadth of services will only increase across 2019. With the smart home, and smart speakers in particular, becoming increasingly normalized in the eyes of the consumer, this looks like a blossoming space.

Interestingly enough, today also marks the day the UK Office of National Statistics unveiled employment numbers for the year. The number of people now employed in the UK has reached an all-time high of 32.54 million, while the number of job vacancies rose by 10,000 to a record 853,000. Although the early adopters, those with extraordinary technology ambitions, will focus on the added value benefits of AI there will of course be those who use such a breakthrough to reduce headcount.

This is the reality of AI which we will have to meet head on. Jobs will be replaced by automation and software, people’s livelihoods will be made redundant, unless retraining is offered. But, for retraining to be a realistic ambition first there has to be an acceptance of the negative consequences of AI.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will be incredibly painful for some, but industry and politicians don’t seem to want to admit this, instead just focusing on the benefits. Every Industrial Revolution has been painful for those who have not adapted for the future, but somehow the rhetoric seems to be this one will be different. Putting PR spin on the issue will not help in the long-run, we need to be realistic.

HPE attempts to put positive spin on AI job losses

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has released new research which states redundancies are okay because more jobs will be created. But, how many of these new jobs will be offered to those shivering in the dole queue?

Here are some points which few in the industry will argue with. Firstly, AI will enable new business models, products and services, which will help certain companies grow. Secondly, certain national economies will grow thanks to increased profitability realised through operational efficiency. Finally, new jobs will be created as a result of organizations implementing these technologies.

These points are reinforced in the research, respondents expect to grow their revenues 11.6% by 2030 as a result of AI adoption, while participants on average plan to invest 0.48% of their revenue in AI in the next 12 months. There is clearly a surge towards AI which is irreversible. The issue we have right now is no-one willing to accept there will be pain.

The world of efficiency and profitability is cut-throat. Throughout history, business owners have sought new ways to reduce the impact of a company’s biggest overhead, its workforce, and AI is just another step in this quest. HPE believes AI will create jobs, and we do not disagree, though the claim these jobs will outweigh the redundancies is dubious (at best).

Two thirds of respondents expect that new jobs created by AI will balance or outweigh the number of jobs made redundant by AI. In our opinion, these people are either incredibly optimistic or dangerously naive. The promise of AI has been to free up employee time by removing the monotonous tasks, though we suspect there will be numerous business owners and CEOs who will use the technology to reduce headcount instead of searching for new value. Even if the respondents are being genuine, the research does not take into account disruption. Here, Amazon is an excellent example.

Cashier-less supermarkets is an experiment from Amazon which is gaining quite a bit of attention. Should this idea take hold with Amazon finding profitability in the venture, it will be scaled. With the cut-throat nature of the Amazon machine, it would challenge the traditional industry, undercutting due to the lesser employee expenses. If Amazon’s supermarkets become popular with the general public, revenues will be squeezed in the traditional supermarkets, sites will be closed and people will be unemployed. Unfortunately, the disruptor cannot offer these people any employment opportunities. This is the price of efficiency.

This is the big issue which the industry faces. AI will create new jobs, but will those who are being made redundant qualified for them? Will a company like Pepsi or Tesco hire an unemployed customer service agent or former cashier for the newly created coding and data scientist jobs, or will they look to the technology orientated universities?

At some point the industry will have to take ownership of the logical chain of events. AI will help companies grow and capture new revenues, but efficiency and industrial revolutions are painful processes for certain segments of society; this is an unavoidable truth. The sooner industry and governments recognise progress has a nasty side, the better the transition can be managed through effective reskilling initiatives.