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27th March 2018

Will a Robot Take your Job?

Last Friday, Impact’s Sarah Lavin attended Pro-Manchester’s business conference: Trailblazing Technology – the future impact of AI and Tech on Manchester. Speakers from a range of sectors and disciplines came together to share how they are using Artificial Intelligence and how it is already changing the way we work.

It was clear from the day that artificial intelligence and machine learning is not new. Robots are already here, whether they are answering customer questions, or helping us to choose what to watch on Netflix, with driverless cars no longer a concept from a sci-fi movie. However, never before have we had the conditions that allow us to use machines in this way. An abundance of data, the ability to store and transfer it and having the processing power required now means that we are embarking on what many are calling the 4th industrial revolution.

Opportunities for organisations adopting new technology include improved customer experience, better use of data, reduced wastage/increased productivity (a machine can operate 24/7 without rest breaks or human error), improved decision making and greater personalisation, to name a few.

artificial intelligence business conference

In health and social care, technology is already reducing the time that patients have to wait to speak to a GP, or get the medicines they need. The technology by Now Healthcare Group can even deliver medicines to service users within an hour of their virtual appointment (read more here). Exciting research from Manchester Metropolitan University includes a computer that can detect deception by recognising minute facial expressions, a technology which can be used at border control. Overall, the economy is set to see an additional 10% growth in GDP by 2030, thanks to AI and new technologies (read more about the economic outlook for Greater Manchester here).

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority outlined their strategy to make Manchester one of the top 5 digital cities in Europe. Currently, Manchester is 16th but there is growing interest and development in our city. Many tech businesses are now asking to come to Manchester and large employers such as Manchester Airport Group are finding it easier than ever to attract talent in the digital space. This is great news for our city, however there is still a skills challenge in inspiring and developing the next generation into tech and science careers. Local authorities are keen to see businesses doing their bit to encourage young people into these sectors.

A key theme from the day included the importance of people and culture in technology adoption. A case study shared by law firm Mills and Reeve, showed how they are adopting new technology for the benefit of clients, staff and the firm. It was emphasised that as with any change, the success or failure of adoption is dictated by the people and culture of the organisation. As psychologists, we understand the importance of participation and engagement when introducing new ways of working and that change can only be effective if people are ready and willing to support it (read more about our work).

Ethics were another important consideration for emerging technology and use of artificial intelligence in business, not least because of recent revelations of personal data misuse, or examples of chat bots that have become racist. Currently there is no professional code within the software industry unlike in law, accounting or indeed psychology. There are calls to ensure that artificial intelligence is used in the right way, with humans retaining control of decision making at all times. In the words of Steven Hawking, “a super intelligent AI will be extremely good at accomplishing its goals, and if those goals aren’t aligned with ours, we’re in trouble”. This message was echoed at the conference, with speakers adding that the industry needs to build trust and transparency to move forward in an ethical way.

artificial intelligence technology conference

So how will this affect jobs? Will we all be replaced by robots? According to PwC’s Rob McCargow, 30% of jobs are likely to be susceptible to automation by 2030, with the greatest impact in the retail and manufacturing sectors. However this is unlikely to mean a loss of jobs. In fact, greater automation and adoption of artificial intelligence will result in more interesting roles, as well as many new jobs to support the growing tech industry. For example, machines will conduct line by line comparisons of long documents, freeing up trainee solicitors to develop their advisory skills.

The future is set to bring us even more augmented reality and immersive tech (think Pokémon Go or Snapchat filters), such as glasses that provide the names and mutual connections of everyone in the room when you attend a conference in the future. Conservative predictions, from Draw and Code suggest that there will be 2 billion daily users of such tech within 5 years or less.

One thing is clear, AI is here and it’s making waves. Is it time for you think about how your business, customers and staff could benefit?

You can read more about how pioneering technology is changing our world here.

Contact us to find out how we can help you to make new technology adoption, or other changes in your organisation, successful.

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