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Harnessing the true potential of AI

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As we race towards an uncertain future, one thing’s for sure: artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay.
We cannot know exactly how it will reshape our work, our businesses, and our lives in general, but there are some fascinating and exciting potential outcomes, writes Ankur Prakash, vice-president: new growth and emerging markets at Wipro.
We’ve already seen the first iteration of AI in the workplace and in our daily lives, as we hand-over repetitive tasks, or tasks that require us to wade through masses of data, to self-learning algorithms.
But perhaps the most interesting dynamic of all is the way that AI could change our sense of self. The automation of our basic administrative tasks will help us better express our most creative, spiritual and ambitious selves.
Counter-intuitive though it may sound, advanced AI technology could well help us to better connect with those around us at a richly ‘human’ level.
Just what do I mean by this? Let’s explore a few ways that AI can augment our lives:
* Supporting our gut-feel – For purely analytical tasks, AI can provide us with accuracy and context to inform our decision-making, while alerting us to any inherent biases in our thinking. This melds beautifully with that intangible concept of ‘gut feel’, to create the wisest, most strategic decisions.
* Knowledge transfer – Cognitive learning, a subset of the broader realm of AI, has tremendous application in helping to capture, package, and relay organisational knowledge from one individual to the next. Think of your very best employee … with the right cognitive learning solution you may be able to literally “bottle” their contribution to the company, codifying their knowledge, and help in sharing and quality learning.
* Enriching the people management function – We’ve all heard of the term ‘management by algorithm’. Algorithms can help to set and monitor some of the more tangible aspects of performance management, freeing up general management and HR staff to focus on the more human aspects of employees’ experience, and devote more time to deep conversations with staff.
* Enhancing company valuation – Many decades ago, the value of a company lay largely in its fixed assets: property, plant, stores, branches, and other physical infrastructure. As we entered the knowledge economy we began ascribing increasing value to human capital and other intangible assets — like goodwill, and intellectual property. In the future, we’ll add yet another dimension to the value of our organisations: the state and sophistication of our AI capabilities. By investing in the likes of data science, machine learning, predictive analytics and cognitive learning solutions today, we could ratchet up our organisation’s value in the future.
* Contributing more meaningfully to society – AI could become a powerful lever with which to effect meaningful, lasting social change. Governments and businesses share the responsibility to ensure that AI leads to greater equality and access to opportunity. For example, we can focus our AI efforts on healthcare in the developing world, to mitigate the effects of disease and poverty (rather than just using it to help us choose the next movie on Netflix, for example). Some AI commentators are already advocating for the concept of a ‘robot tax’ — levied on the value that AI brings to one’s organisation — the funds of which could be channelled into social initiatives.
We can’t predict the future. And we can’t know how to best prepare for the forthcoming AI revolution. What new jobs will AI create? How will we need to re-tool ourselves to take advantage of this incredible new technology? As we face up to these challenging questions, we must keep our minds open, get comfortable with an AI-driven future, and actively pursue ways to harness its potential.