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The Human Touch With AI And The Workplace

When Professor Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk say they believe Artificial Intelligence is a huge threat to the human race other people sit up and listen. Stephen Hawking warns Artificial Intelligence could end mankind

  1. The list of jobs that could be done more cheaply and efficiently seems to grow longer every day meaning fewer and fewer people will be gainfully employed.
  2. Psychologists tell us that human beings benefit from the sense of purpose and value that their job provides so the prospect of millions of people with nothing to do is seen by many as dystopian even if we are all paid more than enough money to live on from the huge revenues generated by the super productive robots. When robots take all the work what’ll be left for us to do?

But is this dichotomy of “us vs them” a false one? A significant portion (44%) of the global population have access to smartphones. Companies are early adopters of any technology that increases their opportunities to do business more easily from fax machines through video conferencing to email and Skype. It’s no coincidence that the majority of new technology that is transforming the business world supports faster and easier communication between people as opposed to the Industrial Revolution that was all about producing things en masse efficiently and cheaply. Even developments such as Uber and Airbnb could be said to be part of this trend as they facilitate easier and cheaper travel to meet new people and make connections.

Watch This Space

Another example of this is the latest offering from Hewlett Packard called Intelligent Spaces; a customizable service combining the Internet of Things (IoT), data analytics and hi-speed wifi to create workspaces that fit around the needs of employees, rather than dictate work practices according to the space available.

By utilizing data such as identity, calendars and information from other technologies such as Skype for Business, technology plays the role of the curator. Knowing what information needs to be displayed or acquired based on who’s presenting, who’s listening and so forth.

For example, a consultant might need to give a presentation to specific clients. Working out who these clients are via a face-tracking camera or an identity chip, the AI will then present the correct information based on this information. Other metrics can also be tracked such as engagement, who is present and where are they located, energy consumption, lighting and heating.

All of these factors are taken into account to create the optimal, comfortable and engaging environment generating higher levels of productivity. Combine this with the use of mobile devices and information shared via cloud computing services like Google Sheets, and you have a highly adaptable workforce that can be productive no matter where they are.

The Human Touch


Whilst it is natural for people to be concerned about a future where robots are responsible for the majority of work done by humans at the moment, when we look at what is actually happening in the world of human/robotic collaboration there is a lot to be optimistic about. The state of the NHS is a topic never far from the headlines in this country and as the population ages and antibiotics become less and less effective due to overuse the demands on its resources will only increase. Experts are predicting that many human ailments could be diagnosed and treated by robots in the future. This may seem an unattractive prospect at the moment as we want empathy from our medical practitioners but if you had to wait 6 months to see a human doctor or could be assessed by a robot the same day when you suspected you had cancer would you really choose to wait? Again, this is a false dichotomy, the future will lie in collaboration to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the service overall allowing human doctors to be available when we need them. This scenario is a long way off but this paper, written after a round table event held at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in July 2017 gives some insight in to how collaboration is working today and how our industry’s leaders think we will benefit from it in the future. Automation – the collaboration between human and machine