AI, or artificial intelligence, is a term generally used to refer to the simulation of processes of human intelligence by machines—most commonly by computer systems. While for many people such notions still evoke futuristic sci-fi imagery, they might not realise that artificial intelligence is actually already in the process of transforming our everyday lives in the workplace across a broad variety of sectors including marketing, finance, customer service, and even law and healthcare.
As an example, some office photocopiers and printers are able to learn how to perform self-maintenance, which means that the very equipment we work with is set to become much smarter thanks to AI. Thus, artificial intelligence is not the future, but rather the present—having already become an indispensable tool that helps us to work smarter and more efficiently.
How Does AI Work?
Fuelled by Hollywood fantasies, artificial intelligence is often still confused with robotics. Although the two disciplines may complement each other, AI mainly focuses on imitating the natural learning process a human brain would undergo. This is achieved through the creation of so-called artificial neural networks, which means that the program, instead of being meticulously coded, is allowed to develop its own algorithms by way of feedback.
In short: these systems are actually able to learn from experience—a function that has proven especially useful in the field of Human Resource Management. Thus, AI systems today can be made to examine vast amounts of data from different sources in order to locate candidates whose talents fit a particular job description. By doing so, the system may discover people who would normally not have thought to apply, and whose talent would have otherwise been lost to the company.
A Growing Industry
While the first steps in the world of machine learning were already taken as early as the 1960s, artificial intelligence as a promising new industry is still relatively young; being propelled, in no small part, by the development of both the internet and smartphone technology. Accordingly, the investment in artificial intelligence has grown dramatically, with an increase of over 700% in investment over the course of four years (from 2011 to 2015).
With modern technology giants like Facebook, Microsoft, and Google investing heavily in the field, AI today represents a billion-dollar industry which is quite likely to grow further as technology continues to evolve.
Where Do We Find AI in the Workplace?
As mentioned earlier on, artificial intelligence has provided huge benefits to a variety of sectors. Chatbots, for example, are being used in HR, customer service, and even education to enable employees to work more efficiently. If, for example, a chatbot can take care of common and frequently asked questions, the human employees would be free to tackle more complex and/or philosophical issues, and a large amount of pressure could be taken off office telephone systems.
Similarly, sectors such as law, healthcare, HR, and management benefit from AI systems’ ability to crunch vast amounts of data and quickly discern general patterns from the input. Thus, programs such as ‘workday software’ are able to effectively reflect an employee’s job satisfaction based on factors like the time since the employee last received a raise or bonus, team size, or performance and potential. AI-processes like this may decrease a company’s turnover rates by almost 30%.
Meanwhile, in the field of marketing and advertising, AI has become indispensable in personalising customer experience, with programs being able to quickly learn a person’s preferences based on their previous decision-making and make suggestions based on this data.
Potential Limitations and Controversies
With regard to the drawbacks of using AI in the workplace and letting it become part of our everyday lives, Hollywood has yet again played its part in fuelling some pretty unrealistic fears. There are, however, some real-world issues that companies should keep in mind to ensure a satisfying and productive collaboration between man and machine.
First off, one should remember that most AI systems are simply still fairly young, so we simply do not know, as of yet, if their way of making decisions can fully replace that of a human manager, for instance. Accordingly, some complex tasks may still require the famed human touch.
Another sensitive issue, of course, is privacy. AI systems can naturally make better decisions if they have more data to work with, which makes it necessary for companies to use these systems in an informed and sensible way that does not invade the privacy of employees. If such precautions are heeded, though, experts believe that the use of artificial intelligence will provide for a highly dynamic and efficient workforce of people who are more flexible within their jobs.
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