The Future Of Work: As the world continues to move forward at an alarming speed, many norms are being readjusted. When the economy doesn’t do well, people face pay freezes, retrenchments, or unemployment.
An area that always seems to be thriving is innovation in artificial intelligence (AI) – the cornerstone of technologies like virtual human assistants and human-like avatars. The technology market is open to new ideas to better the human experience, which is what these technologies are created to achieve. Ironically, their impact could include replacing human jobs with a more seamless process. Many simple tasks do not require humans anymore, saving employers from paying salaries and staff benefits.
It isn’t good news for us mere humans, though. According to Kai-Fu Lee, 40 per cent of workers will have their jobs replaced by AI within 15 years– but certain industries are easier for AI to penetrate than others.
Future of Work: Production line
The industry where robots are the most prevalent – the manufacturing business is easy for AI to take over because it does not require any conversation skills or emotional intelligence. Step-by-step processes in factories can be programmed into devices that can repeat them 24 hours a day. The lack of need for food, sleep, and interaction greatly speeds up the process. Companies can then focus more resources and manpower on duties that actually require more problem-solving and quick thinking ability.
Cosmetics factories are an example of factories where you will only find a few humans. Churning out up to 750 tubes of lipsticks per hour and 6,000 per day is only possible with robots. Filling bottles with a precise amount, lining up cases, and stamping prices on is done much faster without human hands. In some factories, people might be needed to perfect colours and do quality tests, but may major brands rely purely on machinery.
Future of Work: Data-heavy industries
Computers are used to house information for jobs that require lots of calculations, science, and data. With AI, everything can be stored and processed at once as long as it is written in the code.
Artificial intelligence can help industries that work with huge amounts of data and paperwork such as accounting and innovation. It takes decision-making out of innovation thanks to the ability to compute huge amounts of data. Products will be created based on feedback, user needs, and cost, creating the best product without any emotional interference.
Future of Work: Customer service
Places that require customer service personnel such as retail stores, airports, and hotels are able to answer more customers with the help of AI.
Online, answering bots and pre-programmed chats are available so that customers can find answers without having to wait in line, write an email, or make a call. This speeds up their process but it also allows for those staff to perform more important tasks instead of getting held up by basic questions.
Airports also use robots to direct passengers in various languages and answer basic airport questions. Hotels use robots in the same way, with the addition of room service. The next generation of such services includes the likes of virtual human agents (VHA), which combine natural language processing and human-like AI intelligence to provide a long list of services.
People say you need to work in retail or food and beverage in order to learn more about the funny questions people are capable of asking.
This is why the frontline service industry is a tougher market due to the need for face to face human interaction. When faced with real problems and questions, customers require an actual person to attend to them. This is not just due to the fact that the staff will answer them better, but because the sympathy and emotional understanding will help to appease customers.
Depending on the nature of the store, replacing people with robots can be a good or bad business decision. In grab-and-go stores like supermarkets, cashiers have been replaced with self-checkout counters and machines that eat your money and spit out the change. This is because customers do not need to ask questions or make small talk when they are grocery shopping.
Future of Work: Consultation based services
In the beauty industry like hair salons and facial spas, having people around is non-negotiable. The consultation process has to be done in person as your consultant will be able to check your appearance in person, find out about your concerns, and recommend the best process for you.
Machines might be able to scan your skin and give you a review, but consultants have to be there to find out about your daily habits, your desires, and what makes the most sense for you in your current situation. Beauty visits are also an opportunity for conversation and relationship-building, further highlighting the importance of having human staff.
Similarly, the fashion and medical industry will always have some inclination for human staff. Personal shoppers aren’t always a common occurrence, but having a staff recommend the best-selling pieces and helping you find your size Is helpful.
They can cost more than $200 per hour, but using AI screens allows every single customer to experience it for free. You are able to perform tasks like checking their stock online and in other stores, getting items that match your style and finding out your size. Some shops like NomadX and habitat by honestbee have found a way to meet these needs and more without human interaction.
However, people usually prefer receiving feedback and advice from people who understand their lifestyle and fashion sense, instead of a device that just tells them which pieces of clothing looks best together.
Hospitals, Medical and Healthcare Professionals
At a dentist, in a hospital, or during surgery, most think that humans rule due to the severity and detail of the processes. However, it has been proven multiple times that AI can be used to detect illnesses and perform jobs better than humans.
At London’s Royal College of Physicians, a test was carried out with the director at digital healthcare start-up Babylon Health, Dr Mobasher Butt, and the company’s AI doctor. The medical examination has an average passing mark of 72 per cent. The AI doctor scored 81.
Even so, the AI doctor will have many regulations that limit it from performing bigger tasks besides providing advice. It is unlikely, however, that there will be AI front desk staff in hospitals – imagine a hysteric caregiver rushing their sick loved one into the hospital, only to be stared back at with a screen.
Making a diagnosis and writing prescriptions might come in the near future, but it is uncertain if AI doctors will ever be able to lead in the surgery room. At such a critical level, doctors with years of experience, quick problem-solving skills, and emotional intelligence, are better left with this task.
Therapy is also available online with a fast-growing customer base as it is a way for people to voice out their problems without feeling judged. They feel less vulnerable due to the online barrier and the costs are also reduced.
Various sites offer psychologists and therapists online where users can choose and make appointments. That can still feel scary and unfamiliar, especially with the common $50 and up price tag. The solution? AI therapy. Woebot, a chatbot in Facebook Messenger that uses cognitive behavioural therapy provides conversation to comfort users.
It was developed by clinical research psychologist Dr Alison Darcy, with an advisory board including AI expert Andrew Ng. Some people find it hard to type lengthy paragraphs instead of voicing it out, while others find writing therapeutic. Others might not find the mode of conversation a problem, but find it hard to feel emotional when they are having a conversation with a chatbot.
Though AI therapy is developing, it looks like services that require a level of emotional understanding truly need a person at the other end to be able to empathise and propose solutions.
Future of Work: Creative industries
Most AI devices are currently unable to operate and think on their own, leaving creatives to their jobs. Content creators like writers have their jobs pretty secure – for now. However, photographers, videographers, and video editors might already be losing some of their jobs.
There are so many automated cameras that will capture imagery based on light, speed, or movement. Take speed cameras, for example, humans would not be able to press the capture button in time to capture speeding drivers.
Many editing applications are appearing that help to stitch photos or videos together, add music, and even some special effects. At AJ Hackett Singapore, customers that go on the bungy jump, giant swing, or vertical walk will all be able to purchase their custom video right after their experience. The video is taken from different angles and includes time lapses and slow-motion shots, all created within a few minutes
Video editing is a time-consuming process that costs a lot of money due to the equipment and salary, which is why many companies that do not specialise in videography might find this more convenient. For proper films, an editor is still required to pick out the best takes, angles, and sound.
It’s only a matter of time before AI can be made to think and create their own ideas. Hopefully, humans will still provide a more relatable angle– the future of work remains to be seen.