Be calm and beat the bot

Jessie Paul on how humans can benefit from intelligent machines 

Published 6 years ago on Apr 08, 2017 3 minutes Read

The title is not if but when machines do everything. This book is for those who believe, ‘The bots are coming!’ But the authors do not approach the topic in a breathless, “OMG, we’re all going to lose our jobs perspective.” Instead, this is a well-researched book that tries to give practical advice on how to deal with the changes. And it's not just the deal, perhaps it's also the profit from what they call the fourth industrial revolution. 

Machines already do a lot of things that humans did a few years ago. Anything that is repetitive or process-driven is already automated, but the next wave of machines will be able to handle far more complex tasks. The process of instrumentation such as adding connectivity or processing power to objects — will proceed rapidly, giving machines much more data to munch upon. Humans, as a result of this, will generate huge amounts of data about themselves, which the authors refer to as ‘Code Halos.’ (The tracking of this sort of data is what allows Netflix to know what you want to watch.)

Does this mean that all jobs will be cannibalised by bots? Firstly, the book distinguishes between work and jobs. Secondly, the authors argue that the speed of change will not be as fast as the extreme projections. Thirdly, they break up jobs into three types — those that will be lost are expected to be around 12%, while those enriched are 75% and 13% of net new job creation. Thanks to the enrichment and the tangible impact of such improvement — better health outcomes, lower costs of necessities, more accessible and targeted education, though, certain individuals may suffer, society as a whole will gain. 

Given their background working with large enterprises, the authors devote much energy to provide insights on how largely this transformation will impact such organisations. Contrary to popular beliefs, the authors say that the established organisations have an advantage from this transformation as they have huge amounts of historical data at their disposal. While young companies such as Amazon, Netflix, and Uber have used machines to create new ways of doing business, older firms can use the assets at their disposal to do the same.

Rather than philosophising or hand wringing, the book attempts to provide catchy frameworks such as ‘AHEAD’ to help you deal with the future. In the same practical spirit, they keep the discussion within the timeframe of a meaningful business decision rather than the far-out future. The book gives practical advice on how to assess whether artificial intelligence is good or not, which jobs are more likely to be automated and at what pace. The book draws upon extensive primary research on this topic as well as secondary research to substantiate perspectives and arguments with data.

This book will help you figure out whether your job is under threat and if yes, what to do about it. It also has valuable advice on how you can utilise this trend to gain disproportionately. It’s a great explanation on why growth is currently stalling and when you can expect the next boom. For those running or starting a company, there is excellent advice on how to benefit from bots.

In the 1970s India saw protests against computerisation of banks fearing that it would result in job losses. Today many fear bots for the same reason. One cannot reinstate the genie back into the bottle. You can only make it grant your wishes.