Saturday, June 23, 2018

Do Companies Need An Artificial Intelligence Strategy?

That artificial intelligence has had an enormous impact on the way business organizations conduct their affairs is already an undisputed fact.  In fact, the time has come for businesses of scale to seriously analyse the impact that artificial intelligence or AI is having on their businesses, so as to be able to optimally leverage its immense advantages. Rather than view it as a mere productivity or efficiency tool that they have to budget for, they should formulate an artificial intelligence strategy.

Advantages of Having an AI Strategy in Place

1.       Business Perspective- It is all very well to get enamored with new fangled terminology and think of inducting artificial intelligence technology into one's business process like everyone else seems to be doing. But unless one is able to dove-tail it to one’s strategic business objective, one would have spent a fair amount of money without much reason.
With all the talk about how the adoption of AI technology is extremely important if businesses are to stay profitable in the digital era, having a well thought out strategy about optimally leveraging AI is the crucial first step. They have to be able to determine the value that the implementation of AI imparts to their organization before they actually invest in it.
2.    Putting Data to Good Use- Making sense of the vast amounts of data that businesses come by is right up the AI street. Ensuring that you deploy AI to make big data work for you has to be part of your AI strategy. It will allow your business to make sense of huge amounts of information about your customers in an optimally efficient manner.

3.       Engaging with Your Employees-With all the bad press that AI gets as a job killer you need to use AI to empower and grow your manpower along with the business. Like all technology, AI is best used as an enabler than this indiscriminate disruptor. Remember we are talking about intelligence here, not brawn. A smart AI strategy will enable you to do just that.

4.       Artificial Intelligence Is All About Training- AI starts off with what may be termed bare algorithms, which in a sense acquire intelligence, only after receiving training, working with vast amounts of company data. This is something that many people who are thinking of going in for AI have no clue about. An AI strategy can help one obtain a better grasp of the implementation roll out.

5.       Learning to Organize AI- Important as proficiency in data management is for the successful implementation of AI,  the ability to organize it in a manner that people from different disciplines are able to work in tandem with AI experts is just as significant. To be able to manage such a diverse team will necessarily require business leaders to both develop a core understanding of how AI functions and make it relatable across the board.

6.       Learning to Synergize Humans and Computers- This calls for reorganizing a company’s organizational structure in a manner that it becomes flexible enough for people to work in consonance with machines. A change in the cultural values of a company, which will be necessarily accompany the introduction of AI, will be extremely challenging and something that will have to be managed with deftness and sensitivity.

7.       The Impact Of AI On Jobs- A favorite bugbear for opponents of AI is its perceived negative impact on jobs. In reality, AI is expected to have a  far more benign effect upon employment, though it will definitely lead to an evolution in the way jobs are performed. Most people would only need to prepare to take on a different role of deploying AI to help enhance a business's performance, rather than face the prospect of unemployment.  Having an AI strategy will help a business dispel any negativity that the planned adoption of AI technology might otherwise engender.

8.       Preparing For The Future- The rate of adoption of AI may not be all that right now, but it is growing exponentially and sooner rather than later it will become all pervasive across industries. Companies who have already formulated a definite strategy to incorporate it into their business processes will be at a definite advantage in the years ahead when AI is expected to transform our very society.

The coming decades will see businesses innovate in ways that will usher in unimaginable levels of efficiency and output-all thanks to AI. It is for companies to ready themselves for the exciting times ahead than fear the changes to come.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

How To Save Your Job From A Robot?

Just a few years back an article like this would sound like the title of a sci-fi story, but most will agree that this is a scenario most people would have worried about at some point or the other.  The way that automation, driven by relentless technological change and advancement  has made jobs redundant across industries is a specter that is all too real for people, to not worry about it.

“Where are we headed? Are there going to be any jobs left for humans to do at all?

When people like Bill Gates suggest that robots that take away people’s jobs should be subject to a tax, you and I cannot be blamed for worrying about the future of human employment. But wait a second-are things really as bad as they seem? Some experts actually believe that unbridled automation and advances in robotics will lead to the creation of newer jobs. After all someone is required to build and manage the robots, they argue.

In any case, there is no doubt about the fact that you do need to do something about the situation, even if it means acquiring new skills that will ensure your employability in a world swarming with robots! Not exactly, but you know what I mean. Maybe, you should take some steps to save your job from a robot. Here’s what these might be: 

1.  Know Your Enemy- If you can’t beat them join them! Well, at least try to understand the threat that you face from them. If you are an Uber driver in the US, you might be genuinely concerned about driver-less cars rendering you jobless in a few years’ time. On the other hand, if you are an Uber driver in India, no way are driver-less car  a threat to one’s livelihood,  for another decade and a half, given the state of the roads and traffic here!

You may even want to turn around the situation to your advantage. Say you are a marketing manager who needs to enhance business generation in a hurry. You may want to leverage technology and create an automated lead funnel by optimizing your online customer outreach. So rather than technology taking away your job, it may provide it with a fresh lease of life.

 2. Revel In Being Human- This may appear counter intuitive, but this may be the best way to ensure that the robots never take away your job.  You have got to remember that robots are created by human to serve humans. So enhance an inherently human skill, that a robot will find difficult to replicate. This is usually possible in  distinctly human realms.

For instance a robot might provide a technical resolution to a problem, but it lacks the human interface which becomes a problem in managing customer relationships. That’s an opportunity for customer service personnel with superior people management skills. Alternatively,  take the case of content creation, writing and translation. Though there already is software that can perform some of those tasks, it is clearly not the same thing.

Human beings need a philosophy of life in order to be happily successful. That cannot come from robots. You can’t have a robot CEO manage the strategic affairs of a company!

3.  Use The Robots- Remember that robots are nothing more than tools and machines to help you accomplish goals with greater efficiency and in the process provide you more quality leisure time. When the automobile was invented mankind didn’t fear that their legs would atrophy. Instead, they learnt to drive the damn thing and achieve far greater mobility than their own legs ever gave them.

There is nothing that stops one from acquiring the skills required to leverage the benefits offered by new age technologies like robotics, the Internet of Things, Augmented Reality and all the other wonderful stuff that we keep hearing about.  Don’t fear robots. Welcome them to your life. If anything they will only add value to it.

Human beings have a tremendous capacity to absorb new technology in their lives and become the better for it. There was similar fear and consternation among workers when the industrial revolution was around the corner. But everything worked out quite alright and nobody any more insists that we go back to the ear of horse drawn carriages and chicken pox!

4.    Math and Science Are Important- Remember that much of the job creation in the coming years is going to be in the high technology realm. The inexorable growth in the use of AI or artificial intelligence will lead to the creation of a slew of jobs requiring the employees to be proficient in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

For instance the expertise of a data scientist is already one of the most in demand skills, on account of the advantages that accrue to companies that can effectively leverage big data. Now this was a job that didn’t even exist not all that many years back!

The only thing that is constant in today’s times is the fact that nothing is constant and static, including keeping pace with technology. With redundancy dogging the heels of every new technology that ever gets invented and implemented, staying not just abreast, but ahead of the curve is the best way to ensure one’s relevance in the job market.

Conclusion- While there will certainly be some jobs lost to technology, there is no danger to humans’ ability to find gainful employment on a mass scale. The world is too large and complex for such a situation to occur.

Besides, like other technologies before it, robotics and AI too will ultimately lead to enhanced efficiency and growth, albeit on an unprecedented scale unprecedented scale. That can hardly be the cause of mass unemployment. On the contrary, there will be whole new categories of jobs being created all the time. Here’s to a brave new world!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Blockchain Technology Has More To It Than Cryptocurrency

The rise and rise of Bitcoin valuation has everybody talking excitedly about the technology that makes cryptocurrencies like that possible. This has shifted attention from the enormous impact that this technology is beginning to have in a whole array of areas that may have nothing to do with digital currencies like Bitcoin.

Before we delve into what those seminal changes might be, we have to get a handle on something called a smart contract, which is a central premise of the blockchain technology. The term itself describes a technology that has the ability to substitute legal contracts with digitization and automation. This would cut down delay in successfully carrying out transactions that is the norm in conventional contacts. The moment a delivery would happen a payment would get made.

These days smart contract has come to denote the software that makes computation on blockchain possible. That brings us to what blockchain itself is. To the uninitiated it can be described as a widely distributed and highly decentralized ledger which has been cryptographically secured. Each block within the ledger is referenced to the previous block and all the approved transactions, since that approval.

Now this transaction may pertain to myriad things. Everything from government, logistics, and education to healthcare, manufacturing and energy can leverage the properties of blockchain technology to obtain unprecedented enhancement in scale and efficiency. It is estimated that the adoption of blockchain technology across industries will add value to the extent of trillions of dollars in the next twelve years.

Let us look at the ways blockchain technology could prove to be a major disruptor in the near future:

1. Decentralized Cloud Storage- Even though we all store a lot of our vital information on the cloud, the fact is that we are queasy about handing control of important aspects of our lives to another entity. You always worry about how your data might get compromised and misused.

Blockchain data storage will resolve that problem in one fell swoop. No longer will any single entity be the sole custodian of all your data. Besides, the level of security will be a lot higher in the case of blockchain data storage on account of the very nature of the technology. This is because multiple copies of every transaction exist on multiple computers making hacking impossible.

2. Digital Security- Everyone knows that digital security is a huge issue worldwide. This is something on which billions of dollars are being spent annually. Blockchain technology can provide a secure way of carrying out all manner of digital transactions. If for instance, banks were to adopt blockchain technology, their customers could receive a secure digital ID rather than have accounts opened in their name. What's more, only they would have access to both the details of the account and the funds therein. Even the banks would not possess the ability to access their customers' funds!

3. Transformation Across Sectors- The application of blockchain technology across sectors is only a matter of time.  Take the case of the real estate sector where there is a lot of opacity in the transactions. Often the records are inaccurate due to mistakes or fraud. Plus there is loads of paperwork. Blockchain technology can comprehensively cleanse the system of all these problems. With very little paperwork involved and the documents becoming easily verifiable with regard to their accuracy, issues pertaining to transfer of title will be a thing of the past.

Healthcare institutions like hospitals can share vital information across their networks without in any way compromising the sensitive data being conveyed. Similarly blockchain technology can make the voting system faster, more accurate and extremely secure.