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The elephant in the A.I. room

Faizan Patankar on 4 November 2018

I was fortunate to be invited to the Finnish ambassador's residence on 30th November 2018 to attend a session on A.I.

A.I. = artificial intelligence

In the session, there were talks from the Chairman of the NOKIA Board, and other focus, including a startup IRIS.AI. From the industry, Microsoft and Samsung had the opportunity to be on the panel, which was cool.

A lot was said about the implementation and understanding of A.I. How much should it be regulated? The timescales for industrial level A.I. to creep in etc.

What no-one in the room spoke about was - what happens to the jobs and more importantly, the people in those jobs?

A.I. will be a net positive to society, but just how? 

Is the net-positive in value creation? shareholder returns? more high-value jobs?

Let's not hide away from the fact that jobs will be affected by the implementation of more Machine Learning (ML) techniques to advance A.I.

So the question is, who manages the re-training of the employees whose jobs are affected?

Does it lie with the organisation?

... or is it with the government?

..... are the unions meant to support their members with training?

It's a question most folks are hiding from.

Having implemented A.I. in an FTSE 100 organisation, I saw first hand the fear and myths around the introduction of A.I. We reduced the manual effort required for an end-to-end task by 50%.

The fear was, will there be fewer people required to do the job.

Thankfully, in our case, we had more work than people and so we had a net positive.

But as the implementation of A.I. increases, society needs to think what is going to happen to the people whose roles are going to start being affected.

Could it be that for every A.I. project, there is a change management project that goes hand in hand? That employees are supported with more digital training and are allowed to actively pursue other tasks within the business?

Does digital training internally and externally become a mandated task - to be done every week - on the job?

Or is it like health check-ups, you have to turn up to be trained regularly, for a few hours each month. Because if the government doesn't look after it's citizens, who will?

Do we think there will be a rise in private businesses, like private clinics? Which for a monthly "insurance" train you on skills that are more digital and make you ready for the changing face of employment?

I don't know the answers to them all.

But I don't hear these questions either.

There's an elephant in the room when it comes to A.I. and our societies are wholly unprepared for it.