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The Future of Work 2030: The Machine Thinks, the Human Steers

When it comes to the future of work, the Institute for the Future (IFTF) in Palo Alto, California is convinced: “There will be a new partnership between people and machines that increases productivity. Human intelligence cannot be replaced. On the contrary, the work of the future will require new skills from employees.

The potential for future collaboration between humans and artificial intelligence (AI), robots, mobile end devices for augmented reality and blockchain can already be seen in the existing basic technologies. For the IFTF, this collaboration at the workplace already begins with recruiting. They predict that the partnership of personnel with AI will allow more equitable selection processes to select candidates according to their skills and not according to gender, age or other biographical characteristics. The algorithms would also replace all too human prejudices in the composition of teams with a clear analysis of the machine, which puts together optimal teams from a variety of skills and personal characteristics. This leads to an increase in work productivity, a better working environment, and more intensive employee retention. As many as 67 percent of the managers surveyed by the IFTF can imagine using AI in the future to achieve more equal opportunities.

Enhanced skills through machines

If AI prevents hidden discrimination in personnel work, it will expand and supplement human skills in other contexts of work. For example, 70 percent of IFTF executives would like their employees to work with machines and robots to overcome their human limitations. At BMW’s mini-production facility in Oxford, for example, collaborative robots are already working together with people. Such CoBots are equipped with sensors so as not to injure their flesh and blood colleagues. However, colleague AI could also replace employees if they are not enabled to collaborate with AI. Especially for the use of AI for the analysis of large amounts of data, the employees also need the corresponding skills. In a 2019 study, Price Waterhouse Coopers asked 500 decision-makers which employee skills were relevant for AI use and to what extent. 81 percent felt that employees needed to understand the potential and limitations of AI. 80 percent each mentioned knowledge about secure and transparent AI as well as understanding and knowledge about data-driven business models. Few companies, however, have the correspondingly trained employees. For this reason, the introduction and successful use of AI will only succeed if companies simultaneously qualify their employees for the application. For the AI to be useful as a colleague in a team, it must be programmed with algorithms to suit the task and be equipped with the correctly formulated task to extract useful information from large amounts of data. This also makes it clear that human intelligence has to control what the AI then has to process.

Enhanced reality for more productivity in teams

This need for training will also be triggered by a third technology that has already made its breakthrough in the gaming sector. Augmented and mixed reality with data glasses or mobile devices will also become established at work in the future, for example in design and planning. 3D visualization in an augmented reality allows building plans to be displayed in a room in which entire teams are simultaneously working on a complex problem. According to experts, the technology has great potential to increase team productivity in development tasks. In the IFTF study, 86 percent of executives said that they were planning to use new technologies to improve employee productivity.

AI deployment will not be successful without human intelligence

Artificial intelligence will be irreplaceable in many “human” activities in the future: disease diagnosis, language translation, customer service, data analysis, production, design and maintenance. But the algorithms will be written by humans, who in turn will have to monitor the AI. To do this, they need skills that hardly any university teaches today. But without human intelligence, the use of AIs will not be successful. For this reason, companies must first make their employees fit for AI use.

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Where do most artificial intelligence professionals work?

In general, Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the attempt to reproduce certain human decision-making structures, e.g. by building and programming a computer in such a way that it can work on problems relatively independently. Often, however, this also refers to imitated intelligence, whereby “intelligent behavior” is to be simulated using mostly simple algorithms, for example in computer games. The understanding of the term artificial intelligence often reflects the enlightenment idea of “man as machine”, the imitation of which is aimed at the so-called strong AI: to create an intelligence that is to mechanize human thinking,[1] or to construct and build a machine that reacts intelligently or behaves like a human being. (Source: Wikipedia) But even artificial intelligence cannot get far without humans. According to a survey on LinkedIn, the USA has the highest number of Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts in the world.

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Cooperation between Man and Artificial Intelligence

How can people and artificial intelligence work together in the future?

Artificial intelligence and digitalization produce new headlines every day. The tenor of the report fluctuates between admiration and admonition. How can people and machines work together in the future? Or won’t they work together because machines do the work?

For large parts of the population, the image of artificial intelligence is dominated by boulevard publications and the film industry. If machines learn to defeat the human grandmasters in chess or Go, media satisfaction spreads. Artificial intelligence represents the pinnacle of human inventiveness. In the films The Matrix and Terminator, on the other hand, machines have long since taken control of enslaved humanity. The mood oscillates between fear and admiration. The Handelsblatt, for example, chose the lowest common denominator in a commentary in which AI was described as a curse and a blessing.[1]

AI has come to stay

Highly specialized systems based on machine learning, pattern recognition or robotics are conquering ever larger fields of application. AI systems are used in the insurance industry to uncover cases of fraud or to process claims, they optimize routes and merchandise planning in retail and personalize the way consumers are approached in marketing or create individual dynamic prices. Even in highly specialized areas, AI systems are set to take over people’s tasks. Self-learning systems prepare forecasts and evaluate key figures in controlling.

And the experiences of the first companies to rely on AI are impressively positive. Last year, insurer Zurich caused a sensation when the company reported that it had processed claims in the claims handling area using AI within seconds for which a person needed more than 50 minutes. There is no doubt that artificial intelligence will shape the world of work shortly.

AI creates more sales and new jobs

That sounds like a job-killing technology that brings the destruction of livelihoods. The study “Reworking the Revolution” by Accenture comes to a different conclusion. There is no doubt that AI systems will take over people’s tasks. For example, chatbots will communicate with customers directly over the phone without people noticing that they are talking to a computer. But at the end of the day, the authors of the study assume that companies that rely on AI could increase their sales by up to 38 percent by 2022 and even create more net jobs.

But the tasks of the employees will change. Surprised, Accenture found that few companies have recognized that changing the world of work requires different skills from their employees.

The new world of work requires new skills and competencies

AI systems are IT systems. Competences with complex technical systems and the computer will undoubtedly retain their already great importance. But IT knowledge alone will not be enough in the working world of the future to keep employees firmly in the saddle. The assumption of more complex tasks by the machines enables new forms of cooperation. In industry, employees will probably no longer be responsible for a particular machine or manufacturing step. If machines transfer workpieces to each other and the production of another piece can be started with just a few mouse clicks, the employees have a new role to play. You need to keep an eye on processes, perhaps even communicate directly with suppliers or customers. But they must also be equipped with the necessary skills to do so.

Digitization and the introduction of AI in companies can only succeed if employees are involved from the outset and do not become affected. However, inclusion makes it necessary for employees to recognize the benefits of the technologies. It is not possible without knowledge about one’s own company, current developments in the industry as a whole and an understanding of what the actual business model of the employer is.

Create an atmosphere that encourages learning and the fun of training

While in the past one or the other employers may have only considered the demand for “lifelong learning” as just a phrase and invested accordingly cautiously in further training, demand is becoming more urgent than ever. Because AI systems change at a rapid pace. This is why companies need to create an atmosphere that encourages learning and the fun of training.

As far as can already be seen today, AI systems promote interdisciplinary work and corresponding forms of organization. The employee of the future must, therefore, be able to adapt to changing situations and other people. Such social competencies will be just as necessary as incentives for more creativity. In many cases, AI systems will aggregate data, but the necessary conclusions and the verification of valid hypotheses will continue to be the responsibility of human intelligence.

This is why companies will benefit most from AI, which best combines the benefits of electronic systems with the capabilities of people. And this can only be achieved with solid further training and active management of competencies in a company.

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[1] https://www.handelsblatt.com/meinung/kommentare/kommentar-kuenstliche-intelligenz-ist-gleichzeitig-fluch-und-segen/21006486.html?ticket=ST-372739-bwhjlDya4cJUNj71Btba-ap3