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February 13, 2019

AI: The Cause of—And Solution to—All of the Future of Work’s Problems



 Figure Source: Barclays

A recent report by Barclays highlights how each successive wave of technological innovation over the past century has lead to a burst of productivity. Right now we are sitting at the precipice of another revolution, as robotics and artificial intelligence are expected to continue to see dramatic improvements in the coming years.

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At Sorcero, we believe the excitement is warranted, but that expectations need to be adjusted. Currently, there is a fear that a massive AI-driven wave of firings is just around the corner. And yet, even as AI is adopted in greater number, unemployment is currently at a low unseen in nearly fifty years. While it seems we can get it to dramatically outperform humans in some specific tasks for which it’s suitable, artificial general intelligence has proven significantly more elusive. That’s why we believe that AI is much more likely to augment your job rather than take it.

As AI enhances our jobs, it will change them fundamentally. It’s going to take away most “dumb work”--fairly repetitive tasks that make up a lot of current work drudgery like data entry, scheduling an appointment, or proofreading. In Sorcero’s case, we’re building products to quickly get you the information you need to do your job, and help you rapidly respond to repetitive questions from coworkers.

For most workers, this is a reason to celebrate. AI will replace the boring, thankless tasks that distract you from your “real” job. This will increase worker efficiency and productivity, allowing you to focus on the higher tasks that require more creativity and the deep knowledge and contextual reasoning that machines find incredibly difficult.

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In a paper by Erik Brynjoflsson and Daniel Rock of MIT and Tom Mitchell of Carnegie Mellon University, find that AI will replace tasks, not jobs, and this will have a transformational effect on jobs in the future.

Our findings suggest that a shift is needed in the debate about the effects of AI on work: away from the common focus on full automation of many jobs and pervasive occupational replacement toward the redesign of jobs and reengineering of business processes.

As these “dumb” tasks are gobbled up by machines, workers will live through a digital intelligence revolution. This will require a vast amount workforce training and upskilling--most of it done on the job. Workers will need to master more complex skills and learn a wider variety of knowledge, at a vast scale. The way we learn will have to change along with the way we work.

This is why we’re building out the second capability of Sorcero. Sorcero isn’t just for finding information from your internal organizational knowledge, it’s for finding all the information you need to do your job today, and everything you’ll need to do it tomorrow. At Sorcero we are building the capability to deliver just-in-time lessons to help workers learn these higher skills on the job, so that the line between “working” and “learning” blends seamlessly as we prepare for a future where workers will be continuously learning and taking on new skills.

Traditional training tends to fail because workers are distracted, and don't see the immediate need for the knowledge presented to them. Maybe that's why 70% of traditional workforce training is forgotten within 24 hours. Just-in-time learning ensures that the training is put to use instantly, and can follow-up with quizzes later to ensure the knowledge is retained. In addition, it's immediately relevant to workers, ensuring they'll pay attention.

Workers are expecting this—according to CEB (now Gartner) research, 57% of employees expect learning to more "just in time" in the future. The same study found that workers currently waste approximately 11% of their day on unproductive learning. Shifting to a just-in-time model will ensure that time no longer goes to waste, making employees more productive instantly, even as they build up skills to make them more prepared for the jobs of the future.

We believe that technology like Sorcero will play a key role in the future of AI to give workers “superpowers". In our case, we will give workers frictionless access to all the knowledge they need for their jobs, from the bit of information they need for their next task at work, to the skills they need to progress through their careers. Whatever you do, we hope that Sorcero will be a big part of your future as well.

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