AI will make us more human, shattering the glass ceiling of productivity

In the near future, Artificial Intelligence will free our minds from process-oriented repetition, refocusing time and capital for our most human of pursuits: innovation and creativity. The result will be a revolutionary shift in workplace productivity and fundamental restructuring of work as we know it. So finds a groundbreaking new academic study released by researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London in association with IPsoft.

The study, FuturaCorp: Artificial Intelligence & The Freedom To Be Human, proposes a vision of “FuturaCorp” – an idealized man + machine workplace of tomorrow.

By enabling companies to automate repetitive tasks and redeploy humans in higher-skill roles, FuturaCorp will realize a productivity jump of up to 3.5 times that of today’s organizations, according to the research. But, as we better understand how AI can complement and amplify the creative power of humans, this figure has the potential to rise significantly further.

The research describes job roles as comprised of a series of tasks. Some are repetitive and process-oriented (deterministic). Some require a human in concert with machines (probabilistic). Some rely on the types of connections that can only be made by the human brain, from ideas generation to complex problem solving (cross-functional reasoning). The Goldsmiths team expects that, in the not too distant future:

  • More than 80% of deterministic tasks will be done by machines
  • Probabilistic tasks will be shared 50:50 by machines and humans
  • But humans will still carry out 80% of all cross-functional reasoning tasks

Dr. Chris Brauer, Director of Innovation and Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, explains: “The real productivity benefits of AI will not be simply a factor of automating existing processes. The arrival of AI will engender entirely new, unknown possibilities for humans and what they can achieve.

“It is this new configuration of humans working alongside intelligent machines that will be the source of sustained competitive advantage. The result will be FuturaCorp – a Fortune 500 with the innovative flexibility of a Silicon Valley start-up, or a start-up with the IT power of a Fortune 500.”

The study paints an optimistic picture for the future for individuals, pointing to previous waves of automation resulting in low-skill work replaced by new, higher-skill jobs. It predicts that the arrival of the robots in the workplace will make us more human, pointing to crucial human skills that we will need in FuturaCorp to complement our digital colleagues. The research also imagines example roles that don’t exist today but may be critical in the man + machine organization of the future [see Appendix below].

Chetan Dube, CEO and President of IPsoft comments: “AI engenders emergent individual qualities, which push us to access the more complex parts of our minds. When routine work is automated, we will be able – and required – to flex our most human of skills. To do what the machines can’t, and likely never will be able to do. The future of society relies on individuals accessing higher reasoning, critical thinking and complex problem solving skills.”

However, the need for rapid and strategic skill transformation could lead to a near-term skills shortage, according to the research. The Goldsmiths team found little widespread evidence of universities and training institutions preparing individuals to manage these looming future shifts. Organizations, meanwhile, are currently focused on in-house training, as retention is extremely difficult and significant investment hard to justify.

Finally, the research team developed in liaison with IPsoft a first-of-its-kind ‘organizational readiness equation’ for business leaders to assess how equipped their company is to take its first brave steps into an AI future.

The equation scores an organization in relation to the utopian vision of FuturaCorp, and helps C-Suite leaders to determine what changes need to be made across the firm to push the business model towards this ideal.

Chetan Dube concludes: “CEOs must be prepared to redefine their business in order to capitalize on the productivity potential of AI. That journey begins with fundamental change to organization structure, who they hire for which roles, and how they use the new relationship between humans and machines to maximize efficiency and innovation.”

Appendix: 5 possible new roles in FuturaCorp:

Roles will change significantly in the next five to ten years. New examples we expect will emerge are below. But this list plays on the way we understand work and occupations today. In the future, there may not be ‘roles’, but instead a set of actions that make up a person’s daily work.

  • Chief of Innovation
    Senior management who will successfully steer companies through the upcoming change and disruption. Technical knowledge combined with business strategy, creative, able to get best from the probabilistic functions to pivot the company in new directions.
  • Information Insight Enabler
    Data analysts that will help companies make sense and derive insights from the torrent of data generated by technological disruptions. Coaches and technologists, bridging the relationships between humans and machines via the data generated.
  • Freelance Professor
    Continued growth of online courses and the introduction of alternative accreditations will spawn a growth in freelance or independent professors. In-house training and ‘cognitive centers’ are the beginning of spaces to skill up the current workforce
  • Technology Broker
    Buying advice and negotiating support to divisions across a company to ensure all technology is compatible and collaborate. Previous skills may be sales or IT managers.
  • Interactionist
    Understand and improve the user experience and improve collaboration and productivity between people and machines.