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How AI Makes Your Work Life Better

Increasingly, knowledge work requires a blend of human and machine intelligence. How will your organization meet this challenge?

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Early next year, millions of Bank of America account holders will get access to a new personal banker named Erica. She’ll check account balances, make money transfers, pay bills, and perform dozens of other tasks. Erica doesn’t get tired or rude, and she’s on call 24/7.

As you probably guessed, Erica is a next‑generation chatbot, or automated conversational agent. Unlike predecessor bots that primarily answered questions, Erica can perform a variety of basic tasks in response to voice commands.

True, you could handle most of those tasks by navigating the B of A website, using its mobile app, or walking into a branch. But that’s the point. Erica will make everyday banking easier, faster, and more efficient. Michelle Moore, Bank of America's chief of digital banking, claims that Erica is designed not to replace jobs, but to help employees streamline complex tasks, such as building better relationships with customers.

ERIC BRYNJOLFSSON, MIT Economist

If the successful completion of a process requires 10 steps, one or two of them may become automated while the rest become more valuable for humans to do.

In recent years, the emergence of intelligent agents such as Erica has sparked fears that AI will replace human workers. This isn’t new. Forty years ago, for example, the rise of ATMs sparked fears that bank tellers were all headed for the breadline. In reality, as research by economist James Bessen has shown, the number of bank teller jobs actually increased after ATMs became ubiquitous in the early 1990s.

So, what happened? The number of tellers required per branch fell because of ATMs. That reduced the cost of opening a new branch, with the result that banks rushed to increase their footprints. Overall growth in branch count drove aggregate job growth among tellers and other branch employees. 

Annual change in productivity since 1950

worker productivity.jpg.imgo ServiceNow

Worker productivity has tailed off significantly since the tech boom of the late 1990s, despite mass adoption of cloud, mobile and social technologies in recent years. Some economists believe AI will reverse the trend and boost U.S. labor productivity by as much as 35 percent by 2035.

At the same time, teller job descriptions changed from dispensing and receiving cash to more complex services such as taking applications for lines of processing mortgage payments. Recent forecasts see more sophisticated bots and ATMs leading to fewer tellers, but that decline will likely be offset by increased demand for roles such as financial planning and personal account service. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that teller jobs will decline by 8% from 2016 through 2026, while personal financial advisor jobs will grow by 14% over the same period.

Economists remain divided about the extent to which AI and related technologies will replace human workers. In a 2017 survey of economists by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, 26% of respondents believed AI technologies would substantially increase the ranks of the long‑term unemployed in advanced countries. Another 24% were uncertain, and 18% thought AI would boost overall employment. And a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research predicted that robots would eventually replace between three and six jobs per machine, with the burden falling more heavily on lower‑wage workers.

No matter where the dust settles on net employment between man and machine, it is the jobs themselves—and the nature of the work—that will be changing soon.

Read the full article.

To learn more, visit ServiceNow’s website dedicated to CIOs and education about the benefits of machine learning. You can also read the global study.

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