This article is part of a series about AI for Boards of Directors.
When discussing AI, many people express concern about AI replacing humans in the workforce. Some jobs will no doubt be replaced, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Early on, companies will apply AI to work that humans either shouldn’t, won’t, or can’t do, making the workplace safer and more efficient than ever before.
Here’s exactly what I mean:
1. Jobs AI can do that humans shouldn’t
Industries such as logging, oil rig operations, metal foundries, power line repair, roofing and chemical plants are responsible for 2.3 million workplace deaths, 160 million illnesses and 340 million accidents worldwide, according to the International Work Organization. This has a global cost of $2.8 trillion and an incalculable personal cost to those who lose loved ones.
It doesn’t have to be that way. The most obvious ways an AI-augmented workforce can contribute to automation and robotics include welding, applying toxic paints and adhesives, lifting, moving and stacking heavy objects, and delivering goods autonomously. vehicles. Artificial intelligence technologies such as computer vision and machine learning often allow machines to do these tasks as efficiently as humans, without nearly as many security concerns.
Looking deeper, AI can reduce workplace hazards even when humans are performing the work. Computer vision systems from companies like Intenseeye and HGS monitor warehouses, factory floors and other work environments to detect objects in the path of forklifts, unstable stacking of goods and even dangerous worker behavior such as misuse of protective equipment or authorized work. Meanwhile, machine learning algorithms use data to predict when accidents are most likely to happen based on the time of day, the hours the worker works, age, experience and a constellation of other factors too complex to predict. human supervisors analyze alone.
Artificial intelligence can even be used in training to proactively reduce accidents. Companies like Taqtile, Atheer and Ario are already using immersive technologies like VR and AR to prepare frontline workers for challenging and dangerous roles. Consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton predicts that artificial intelligence solutions such as natural language processing, artificial neural networks and deep learning will soon be used to acclimate workers to random but realistic workplace hazards so they are better prepared if they do occur. unforeseen events at work. real life.
2. Jobs AI can do something that humans won’t do
How about jobs people just prefer not to do? I’m talking about repetitive, boring and low-paying roles that employers struggle to keep. At the time of this writing, industries including agriculture, food service, durable goods manufacturing and retail are facing an unprecedented labor shortage that some predict will last for decades.
AI-powered chatbots, perhaps one of the most well-known labor shortage solutions out there, are at the forefront. By removing the most tedious and predictable tasks from human customer service representatives, chatbots reduce not only the number of warm bodies needed in a call center, but also the fatigue and frustration that phone representatives feel answering the same mundane questions over and over again. questions.
Similarly, machine learning in scheduling applications such as those from Zira, Celayix and Rotageek helps allocate the right retail staff to the right locations at the right time, reducing inefficiencies and making the most of a limited retail workforce. Hyper Food Robotics goes one step further with a fully autonomous fast food outlet that reduces the need for human labor to almost zero.
I’ve written before about how artificial intelligence, along with robotics and automation, can play a critical role in reviving American manufacturing despite labor shortages. Canon’s 3D Machine Vision system, for example, uses artificial intelligence to perform human-like fine motor skill activities. This extends to food production: Carbon Robotics produces an autonomous weed machine that uses computer vision to distinguish weeds from crops and destroys them with precision lasers.
3. Jobs AI can do that humans can’t
There’s one more area where AI in the workforce can add tremendous value—jobs that human beings don’t have the time, skill, or mental acuity to do. Imagine sifting through millions of business transactions or resumes of job candidates, for example, to identify information related to success. This is incredibly complex and time-consuming, and now—unnecessary.
AI-powered supply chain startups like Quantiful and Remi and LeanDNA can help manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers decide what products to order when, what new products to develop, how to place them and price and what volume of demand they should expect, based on different data such as historical sales, economic conditions, seasonal trends and product life cycle. Meanwhile, HR software vendors like Praisidio, Eightfold and Findem are using AI to source, assess, interview and retain employees.
The list goes on. Imagine analyzing thousands of customer accounts to detect and prevent fraud. Imagine designing industrial products with every possible machine stressor, environmental condition and human error in mind. Or imagine trying to analyze the demographics and buying behavior of millions of consumers to discover micro-markets and personalize your marketing offers.
Any complex set of business conditions you can imagine, it’s more likely that someone is working on an AI solution that can deliver far more speed, accuracy and nuance than any human could do alone.
There is a real base of innovative AI workforce solutions that are coming to reshape the business landscape. Instead of worrying about AI replacing humans in the workforce, we should celebrate AI’s potential to free us from unwanted work and empower us to do more meaningful work than we can do alone .
If you’re interested in how AI determines the winners and losers in business and how you can leverage AI to benefit your organization, I encourage you to stay tuned. I write (almost) exclusively about how senior executives, board members, and other business leaders can use AI effectively. You can read previous articles and be notified of new ones by clicking the ‘follow’ button here.