People create change, not technologies

People create change, not technologies

Empowering people with the skills they need to create and sustain a transformative impact

Currently, there is probably no technology topic that is as fascinating but also as controversial in many spots as artificial intelligence. With the help of algorithms, machines can do many things such as read, see, hear, and even interact, similar to humans. This has the advantage that machine learning can allow companies to make numerous processes more efficient, but also enable a whole new world of work for human employees. But what role will AI and humans take on in the future world of work and what does this mean for the further development of humans themselves?

The AI and the human being

So where do AI and humans come together? Many people are not aware of the areas where we already use AI in our everyday lives or in business. In one of the AI Building Blocks Computer Vision, AI is being used to automate quality control, making optical inspections more precise and faster. Or through AI building block Planning & Problem Solving, by intelligently tracking supply chains, bottlenecks can be identified, ensuring a smooth delivery process. From these two examples, we can see that AI has taken over and expanded some of the activities previously performed by humans. In private everyday life, on the other hand, the AI Building Block Computer Vision is used with Face ID, for example, and thus enables a faster and more secure unlocking of the smartphone, or in the AI Building Block Planning & Problem Solving, as soon as Google Maps informs about a traffic jam and how we can get around it most efficiently. For sure everyone can also remember the days of spreading out the map on the engine hood at the gas station and finding the right way. Consequently, AI has taken over and expanded activities previously performed by humans in this case as well. Now there might be a concern that AI will continue to replace humans. But do you feel replaced by using Google Maps, or does it rather allow you to fully concentrate on the road and save time in finding your way?

Relief and Disillusionment

It is important to understand that humans are not eliminated, but rather supported or relieved of tasks that can be automated and that the range of tasks for humans is consequently expanded or changed. But why are humans not dispensable with the implementation of AI after all? In some areas, AI is already doing amazing things. For example, in identifying brain hemorrhages or lung nodules in CT scans. This is the first time machines have entered a domain that was previously considered firmly in the hands of humans. But in other tasks, algorithms sometimes face narrow limits. AI analysis tools have surprisingly big problems distinguishing pulis from mops, Chihuahuas from blueberry muffins, or sloths from chocolate buns. Feel free to Google that. What certainly makes for some chuckles, however, quickly takes on a serious background in a radiological context - what if the AI confuses the lungs and liver?

AI has its Limitations

In the aforementioned AI Building Block Computer Vision, the AI learns to analyze and categorize images through certain patterns. However, this only works for the rigid scenarios learned in each case. So, what is it about AI that has limitations? The algorithms and neural networks of AI systems are only as good as the people who programmed them and the data they were trained with. Consequently, humans remain indispensable. So, what follows from AI taking over activities? What influence does this have on humans in the labor market?

Profitable and realistic use of AI

At present, it currently looks like this: Employees spend only half of their time performing their main tasks. That's the equivalent of working Monday through Tuesday and half of Wednesday. The rest is spent on handling hundreds of emails, completing routine tasks, and sitting in meetings. Consequently, productivity drops. All this is not only a huge waste of time but also means that employees are too busy with non-essential tasks instead of focusing on their core tasks. From practical experience, we know from partners, that adequate employees are not found due to the shortage of skilled workers, ergo they do not want existing employees to stay busy with monotonous tasks that can be implemented in an automatable way. This is where AI has been used as an employee retention tool. Because artificial intelligence in the form of automation tools is not a job killer. No, quite the opposite: it can restore missing productivity by relieving employees of these very time-consuming routine tasks. Or AI supplements when the complexity is very high, and humans cannot handle the tasks alone. From our projects, we know from partners that at large microelectronics manufacturers it is unavoidable to implement automation due to the high complexity of the individual work steps, as humans alone would not be able to perform these tasks. Likewise, due to the competitive intensity, it is necessary to keep pace here. Consequently, AI users are supported in making decisions, identifying sources of error, and finding time for the essentials. And employees in particular overwhelmingly believe that automation is the key to increasing their productivity and freeing up more time for innovation and creativity. However, achieving this requires a new mindset and investment in new technologies. What follows from this is that humans need to be placed at the center of AI.

Setting new Priorities

It is important to reorganize economic and political systems to expand the capacities and capabilities of people to improve human-AI collaboration. It needs to be much more human-centric. AI is very task-oriented, lacks contextual awareness, and it lacks the kind of flexible learning that humans have. The world is in the process of developing technologies that make people's lives better, the world safer, and our lives more productive and better. But all of this requires a level of human-level communication and collaboration. More jobs will involve artificial intelligence, so it needs a large workforce, and it needs a broader base. That is primarily an economic argument. There are also a lot of studies that show that the solutions that a diverse group of workers come up with in their work are more innovative and creative. Consequently, this promotes innovation. Human activities now look different due to the use of AI: humans simply perform other tasks and those that are more demanding and thus serve their further development. The added value for the economy, the respective company, and the individual employee results from this shift of tasks.

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Anne Loos
Executive Director New Business & Technologies
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