Featured in the amazon published book ‘The Ultimate Professional Networker’s Guidebook’ Chapter 22 titled ‘The Digital Revolution and the Artificial Intelligence Paradigm that will shape the 21st century’, the author and interviewer Nazareth Qarbozian discusses with Javaid Iqbal the following:
1 – The current state of the world is in constantly evolving and everything is going Digital. How is this Digital Revolution changing the world as we know it and what lies ahead?
The World Economic Forum (WEF) uses Industrial Revolutions to describe global paradigm shifts and in its current form, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which sits at the intersection of physical, digital and biological spheres is the fastest of them all. In comparison, the First was about using water and steam power to mechanize production, the Second helped mass production of goods using electric power and the Third automated production using electronics and information technology. While each of these were revolutionary in their own sense, the Fourth has the ability to fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. The scope, scale and complexity of this is of an unseen magnitude and its velocity and impact would be monumental to the humankind in the coming years. What makes this revolution even more significant is that it disrupts every industry in every region of the world and impacts ways of production, management, and governance as we know it.
This paradigm shift is breeding a very different human (to a point of being a digital native) that is starting to consume tsunamis of data to make even simplistic everyday life choices. A human that is consistently keeping everyone around them on their toes by demanding information, products, services in the way they want, at the time they want and at the place they want. Technological trends that aid this growth are artificial intelligence, big data, analytics, internet of things, blockchain and many more. These trends are fueling the use of mobile and social technologies that are converging every facet of living on them. The Mobile/internet/social penetration as of January 2019 sat at 5.1B phones, 4.4B internet users, 3.5B social media users against a global population of 7.6B. Popular social platforms like facebook, twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn are essentially modern-day equivalents of TV’s, newspapers, job boards and Hallmark cards that further aid the evolution of behaviors and patterns.
The use of Netflix/Hulu/Amazon for video consumption, Alexa, Siri for voice communication with the machine at home and on the go, Amazon/Alibaba for ecommerce activity for shopping of goods and services, WhatsApp, WeChat, iMessage for text, voice, video communication, Uber, Lyft, Careem for transportation, AirBnB for commercializing extra space in one’s home, PayPal, PayTM, ApplePay as bank alternatives of payments are just a few examples of the digital revolution that is changing the way lives are led, relationships are formed and maintained, business is conducted and humans evolve. All of this is fueling a new synergy between humans and machines that will fuel the next generation of living using Artificial Intelligence and other advanced ways. Imagine the type of humanity we are about to assume that is fueled with the right data and intelligence. Very interesting and complex times ahead.
2 – Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the fundamental new technological advancements that will change the face of humanity and disrupt 70% of future organizations by 2021 (Gartner). Do you agree with this statement, and if yes, why?
Artificial Intelligence is not a new phenomenon. In fact, its conceptualization around human minds has been around for millennia, from references in the Greek mythos. to the philosophical writings of Hobbes and Descartes. Its modern form was conceived in the 1950s, at a now landmark DARPA-led conference at Dartmouth College in 1956, where the words “artificial intelligence” were first decided (albeit with some resistance). Present in the conference were some of the leading scientists of the era, some of whom would lead the field through its first golden era in the next 18 years.
Their hard work and that of many others over the years resulted in businesses around the world beginning to incorporate AI in their processes and offerings to discover and tackle the complex challenges arising in diverse areas like Healthcare, Education, Law Enforcement, Customer Service, Financial Fraud Prevention, Patient Diagnoses, and more. These self-learning and self-improving AI models fed with vast amounts of structured and unstructured data are enabling organizations to enhance their productivity levels by automating the generation of insights, creating personalized customer engagement and accelerating their operational capabilities.
In the global financial sector alone, 24 million SWIFT messages (money transfer between banks) are exchanged between financial institutions on a daily basis and mandates a better, faster way using the predictive features of AI and Machine Learning. Furthermore, AI models are being used in almost all businesses across all industries to keep modern digital consumers engaged around the clock by continuing to up their engagement using the information gathered on their patterns and mindshare. Giants like Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Rakuten and others make continuous buying decisions available on the consumers’ phones (and wrists) to stay relevant and ahead. The decisions are fueled by AI and automation that present information (sometimes clubbing it with social information on their peer’s buying behaviors) to influence the minds and hearts of the customers and prospects. More-crucially, predictive analytics can tag micropatterns on the upswing, highlighting potential niche subcategories worth exploring or even new areas of competitive advantage, thereby, ensuring sustained business profitability.
Furthermore, such organizations also allow their employees in the workplace experience a paradigm called augmented intelligence, where their capability to question and think about solving problems creatively is amplified with effective partnerships with the machines. The machines perform the time-consuming work at an extraordinary rate and allow the humans to focus on more value-added tasks. LegalMation is a fantastic (and scary) example of an AI enabled application in the legal world that allows law assistants, clerks, lawyers to attach case documents to the system and within 3 minutes, receive the first draft of a required brief (that typically takes weeks to prepare) in the right document format. The human can then make tweaks accordingly. The more this system gets used the better it gets and the fewer tweaks become needed going forward. Similar examples of bots assisting with healthcare needs and with advanced image and pattern recognition, AI can already flag cancer much more accurately than a human doctor ever can.
In the future, as the forces of strong AI start becoming more apparent through advanced speech emulation, recognition via natural language processing, or intelligence gathering from seemingly-innocuous data any mere mortal would have found impossible to detect, AI can prove to be the ultimate deputy to the workforce, releasing the human from mind-numbing paperwork to a new horizon of cognitive possibilities. Would it happen by 2021, I doubt it, but the more technology spreads and becomes cheaper, the more this will spread really fast.
3 – It is estimated that by 2020 all operational bank staff engaged in back offices activities will rely on AI to do the non-routine work. Do you think the operational output per worker in these roles will decrease due to AI activity?
Gartner predicts that, by 2020, 20 percent of operational bank staff (in the developed world) engaged in back-office activities like financial contract review or deal origination, will rely on AI to do non-routine work. Further, by constantly learning and analyzing patterns from ever-mounting organizational data, AI will continue to optimize operations and grow efficient over time. The remaining 80 percent (I believe) will convert at a rapid pace soon but not right away, as humans have a tendency to resist change. The paradigm will be much different in the developing world where the labor is cheap and systems are expensive, but as AI technology gets cheaper and adopted widely across the board, more and more conversion will happen due to digitization and automation.
A lot will also depend on the regulatory authorities that govern the countries their financial institutions are operating in. There is typically a time lag between the time innovation hits the market and the regulators comprehend the impact. For sectors such as finance, where over $300 billion worth of fines have been dished out since the recession, this is justifiable, but the tide will hopefully turn when the advantages of regulatory technology become clearer and governance becomes a bit simpler. Throughout the journey, technology will enable humans to remain occupied with more fulfilling tasks and deliver tangible benefits, rather than get bogged down by clerical jobs. As a result, roles which demand a specific craft and skillset, such as data scientists, AI specialists, cybersecurity analysts, and automation experts will increasingly be preferred while unskilled labor such as bookkeepers, customer service, and call center agents will rather hastily go out of favor. In the customer-centric, services-led, and end-to-end digital businesses of the 21st-century, the requirements made of the ideal worker have changed markedly. Job titles concerning analytics, strategy and specialty subjects are in demand and here to say. Individual workers need data and the right business and technical acumen to make decisions at runtime, as the pace of business today dictates.
For workers like them, rather than hurt employee output, AI will enable them by showing the traits of an insightful assistant, augmenting human intelligence throughout. In the mold of Alexa and Siri, which enrich our lives with nuggets of information throughout the day, AI will constantly guide employees through insights both on business threats and growth avenues. Much more than their original roles, it allows employees to occupy newer, specialized roles as data scientists, AI and machine learning specialists, digital transformation and process automation experts and Human-Machine user experience designers. The pain it seems will be borne most by workers aiming to resist change.
4 – As we enter the new decade and as Digitization, AI and Automation continues its disruption streak, what do organizations have to do to stay ahead of the curve?
While most corporations in the developed world believe that they are ready to take on this continuous innovation and intelligence cycle of madness, their readiness is far less than they think as they step into 2020. Readiness is even worse in the developing world. The reality is far too complicated and requires a much more in-depth understanding of the new way of human thinking rather than simply relying on technology.
LinkedIn Research highlights that merely hard skills are not enough to survive in the future. As machines take over more and more of the workplace, the human element and the emotional intelligence which they show will only grow in importance. Two of the key hard skills revolve around technology, namely cloud computing, and AI, followed by analytical reasoning, people management, and UX. In the soft skill domain, it is creativity which trumps others, followed by persuasion and collaboration, both of which show reflect the need for better communication. Next is adaptability, which shows the aptitude to deal with hurdles, followed by time management.
It is up to the leaders to continuously question their readiness for the moving business targets in modern businesses to stay ahead of the success curve. While there is no single way to achieve this (or the right one for that matter), most digital toolmakers wish for these leaders to believe that a simple acquisition and implementation of their products and services can magically take these organizations into digital nirvana. As attractive as that sounds, this select-and-slot strategy must be preceded by some key factors. For one, the shift must start with a vision of success as leaders that have a handle on the pulse of things need to go back to the drawing board (sometimes at regular intervals) to craft a re-imagined vision based on the parameters of internal and external disruptions that are upon them. Digital Transformation needs to get a front-row seat on the priority list to have the impact it should have on the health and longevity of the business. To ensure its completion, a realistic timeframe with similarly realistic goals must be agreed-upon.
Companies also need to actively initiate programs to re-skill and upskill their board members, c-suite leaders and employees with the right digital acumen for future success. This involves imparting of knowledge on technological subjects, from artificial intelligence and analytics to cloud and customer interface, subjects usually kept sealed under the chambers of IT. These must in turn be compounded through people skills such as creativity, cooperation, and communication, in order to deal with the curveballs which modern business problems represent, as well as form interdepartmental collaboration to better serve the customer.
5 – How will AI change the dynamic of the workforce and how will it affect the jobs of billions of people across the globe?
AI stands to deliver a major blow to the global workforce composition, given the widespread benefits the technology aims to deliver. Worker skill enhancement is a major headache for modern organizations, with estimates suggesting over half of active workers currently needing either re or upskilling. Organizations are not alone, as the French government is spending $18 billion on workers at the bottom of the skill-level chart, and now the UK government is following suite. This is not unlike the training workers had to obtain transitioning from steam to electric and subsequently to computerization in the first, second, and third industrial revolutions.
The million-dollar question is whether AI will actually kill more jobs or create them? The answer to that question depends largely on who you ask. A 2018 Gartner survey taken from US and UK workforces suggested that 40% of all jobs will be axed in 10 years but that is understandable given the fears of its participants. Yet, the same PwC study suggests that while AI will cut 7 million jobs in 20 years, it will create 7.2 million jobs in the meantime. I guess, like in the popular case of ATMs and the misinformed fears of them replacing human tellers, the fear of AI disrupting the marketplace could be misguided as well.
That said, as AI gets stronger and stronger, its threat, traditionally faced by the bottom tiers of the labor skill chart is becoming apparent in more advanced roles, too. In job roles related to memory, verbal, auditory, and spatial abilities are increasingly being outsourced to computing platforms, as advancements in natural language processing have brought potential advantages, be it through communication via chatbots and voice bots, to advanced analysis based on words, sentiments, and so on. Meanwhile, skills requiring a more human and emotional element, e.g. emotional intelligence and active learning are going to stay invaluable going into the future.
It is a moment of truth for those working in industries like legal, finance and accounting, who must all decide what skill they will acquire in order to remain relevant going into the future. Those working in domains like image and data processing may also have to face a tough reality soon, with a 15% projected decline in market as per LinkedIn by 2022, while those involved in hiring and job-related tasks face an even worse period. The question of worker skill upgradation or migration will be one of the most morally-challenged for organizations, but one which they must start planning for soon, else risk losing their job to AI.
About the Author and the Book
The Ultimate Professional Networker’s Guidebook is the ultimate first volume book series based on newer and fresher perspectives on Digital and Business knowledge. Nazareth Qarbozian, who has over 30,000 followers on LinkedIn, draws lessons from key experts that he has interviewed and dissects what these experts have to say in Business, Marketing, IoT, Management, Leadership, Crypto, Blockchain and AI education, combining the ultimate knowledge that you can keep to learn about current and future trends in digital and tech.
Book Link: The Ultimate Professional Networker’s Guidebook (Volume 1)