Editor’s Note: CP Gurnani is CEO and managing director of Tech Mahindra, a global provider of information technology and networking solutions. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
The world is witnessing the biggest man-machine collaboration in its history. As CEO of a company that is playing a key role in this technology revolution, I see a future where artificial intelligence is embedded in every walk of life.
AI will revolutionize our lives by bridging the gap between what humans are capable of and what is actually possible. It will penetrate across industries to take over basic tasks from humans, seamlessly interacting with our daily lives. At Tech Mahindra, for example, we have designed and implemented a facial recognition system to check-in employees, thereby eliminating the need of traditional identification cards and other login processes. And while such technologies may sound threatening due to things like privacy concerns, the advancements we’ll experience over the next few years — in driving, shopping, entertainment, business efficiency and even diagnosing and treating patients — has the potential to create a less complicated, more connected, and smoother operating society.
However, there is also a widely held fear that the rise of robots will make humans in the workplace expendable. While AI has the potential to replace some process-oriented jobs in areas like bookkeeping or internal recruiting, where companies are now using AI to match candidate profiles with job openings, the fear that AI will become smarter than humans and replace them in the workplace is overblown.
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As a society, we have dealt with this challenge many times before. Over the past century, we have experienced industrial revolutions that have disrupted the role of the traditional worker. We have seen the impact machines can have on employment by automating basic tasks, and while jobs were lost, new jobs were created, providing new opportunities for humans to do more valuable things.
Likewise, the digital revolution will make the business world more competitive, thanks to cost savings and the ability to automate basic tasks – and it will create new types of jobs. But it’s up to business leaders to make sure workers are prepared.
New technologies like AI, the Internet of things, cyber security and analytics, have already started to create more niche jobs in the industry. However, employees across all levels must be given the opportunity to learn these new skills in order to take advantage of the situation. We chose to invest heavily in training our employees in next-generation technologies like blockchain, cybersecurity, AI and machine learning, robotics and automation. So far, we have retrained 90% of our 122,000-person workforce in primary digital skills and more than 60% of those employees have gone on to more advanced training in things like cloud computing, business intelligence and analytics.
Machines will never replace the resourcefulness and thoughtfulness of these employees and it is our duty as business leaders to make sure they have the skills necessary to keep our businesses competitive.
In addition, businesses need to prepare for an AI-enhanced world by thinking smaller. In many cases, startups and entrepreneurs are the ones leveraging AI brilliantly. They have figured out how to compete through innovation rather than scale. Take cyber security, where businesses are constantly threatened by attacks and costs can often spiral out of control. Balbix, a company we partnered with last year, uses specialized AI algorithms to predict how and where cyberattacks can happen, and provides insights on how to mitigate the risk of a breach. By using AI to empower security experts, much of the surveillance work can be done by the platform while human analysts can focus on resolving and analyzing potential threats. Balbix’s AI technology has allowed companies to save precious time and resources, which can translate into millions of dollars should a breach occur.
Now is the time for large organizations to assess how partnering with innovative players like this can increase productivity while also cutting costs in the long run. Understanding how startups and entrepreneurs can allow businesses to expand their services and reach is one of the most important discoveries businesses can make over the next decade.
A monumental change is underway, and artificial intelligence is leading this charge. But we need to remember that humans are ultimately in control. We will decide when and what machines should deliver, and it will be different for every business across every sector. Now is the time for business leaders to understand the opportunities that AI-based technologies can have on their future, and the future of their employees and to ensure they are prepared. Resisting this change is no longer an option.