Last week Workgrid had the exciting opportunity to participate in the BBC Ulster Inside Business radio and podcast program. The Inside Business program provides weekly commentary and analysis on business and the economy in Northern Ireland. The episode focused on what the workplace could look like in the future and what Artificial Intelligence could mean for jobs. Workgrid's Head of Cloud Engineering and AI, Gillian McCann participated in the discussion moderated by Wendy Austin and was joined by other industry leaders including John McCann, Managing Director at Willowbrook Foods and Richard Johnson from Ulster Business School.
The show explored why integrating automation is important for any business looking to stay competitive, and how AI can result in efficiency and employee productivity. People have always been wary of technology replacing their jobs, but automation will actually create new types of jobs that encourage life-long learning. Socially, AI will raise the standard of living, lower the average price, and ultimately, benefit society as a whole. Unlike laptops and mainframe computers that took 25 years to be fully absorbed into the workplace, automation technology is accelerating and will be accessible to more companies across all industries very quickly.
Take robots for example. Robotics have been used in manufacturing since the Industrial Revolution. The big change lies in automation in traditionally "white collar" industries, or services businesses. Automation in the workplace can be looked at in three groups:
Robotic Process Automation -- the automation of repetitive, analytical work involving multiple data sets;
Cognitive Automation -- involves machines learning from data sets, understanding visuals and data, and becoming more predictive;
and finally, Social Robotics -- a combination of equipment, intelligence, mobility, and senses. These robots interact with humans. (Autonomous vehicles are an example of this.)
Automation is inevitable -- now, we must plan for the future or risk falling behind. The challenges lie in rethinking the training processes for employees, and at a higher level, preparing our youth for a changing job market and workplace.
Education in many areas is not keeping up to speed with the transforming technological landscape. In the face of automation, schools' curriculum and definitions of success need to adapt. Where education has traditionally emphasized memorization and passing tests, creativity and problem-solving skills are now more crucial than ever. Also important is how to leverage the data and tech we have at our fingertips.
The BBC episode dives into these topics and more. As we think about what the future of work will look like, we'll need to adjust different levels of our businesses and personal lives accordingly.
You can listen to the show at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09tgqqx