Three key themes that will influence the future of AI were apparent at this year’s Gartner ITxpo on the Gold Coast. I joined over 2000 CIOs and IT leaders to get the facts on the looming battle between humans and AI.
Whilst there were a few cool demonstrations, many insightful presentations, and hundreds of predictions on future trends; there seemed to be three recurring themes discussed more than others throughout the jam-packed schedule.
Caution: I will try to (not so tediously) link the three below.
1. Artificial Intelligence is (not) going to take over the world
Whenever people talk about Artificial Intelligence (AI), there is the inevitable reference to sci-fi movies where robots take over the world, this is swiftly followed by claims of robots or ‘bots’ taking over our jobs. The latter has been put into focus this week with the widely publicised news that one of our large banks will be cutting 6,000 jobs due to automation; however, what has been less widely reported is their plan to create 2,000 new digital-focused jobs (more on where we will find people to fill these jobs later). And it’s this second part where I base my premise that we should be thinking about AI not as artificial intelligence, rather augmentation of insights. I believe the real power of AI is to augment or help humans make informed decisions and draw insights based on the relevant context. So, IT leaders - what is the relevant context? Keep reading…
2. IT and digital strategy are (still) not well aligned to business strategy
I wrote in an earlier blog about digital agencies like us solving business problems and not just IT problems. And I was a little surprised to hear that one of recurring themes during the ITxpo was that IT or digital departments, teams and leaders are still not aligning well to their organisations’ business objectives. This is probably not news to anyone still reading. However, linking this back to AI, a word of caution for companies whose data strategy is to find all of their ‘big data’, and throw it into the ever-evolving AI engines on the market, and hope for a set of fascinating insights to emerge - it won’t. Rather, invest the time upfront to ask the right question(s) that are aligned to business outcomes, get only the relevant data sources you need to answer the question(s), then let the data augment your insights. If we as leaders in the digital industry get better at this, then I believe we can position ourselves as strategic delivery partners for CEOs and CFOs and not seen as cost centres.
3. Talent identification, recruitment, development and retention is more important (and difficult) than ever
Where do we find the people with the skills to help navigate us through this? In one of the presentations, Gartner claimed that just 1 in 1 million people in the workforce have the skill set required to work in the new world of AI. The room collectively drew breath at this claim (albeit, some were skeptical), but even if this is close to being true, the supply and demand balance of this talent pool is undoubtedly skewed. So, what’s the good news? We are all in it together, there will be a collective need to grow and develop the next generation of knowledge workers and leaders in our industry, otherwise we are left with no choice other than to keep building better robots.
So, if it's not already clear, I firmly believe that the answer to the question of ‘Humans vs. AI?’ is a simple one - both. Without AI, humans will continue to rely on increasingly manual and laborious processes; however, without the human input, AI will simply continue to answer the wrong questions. The challenge lies in the business problem, understanding it, then using the right tool (or bot) for the job.