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Artificial intelligence (AI) is picking up in the real world

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has a relatively easy act to follow. Its predecessor is robotic process automation (RPA), which does what it says; automates existing processes. AI learns and develops its own processes. When RPA began, in another editorial life I spoke to people who thought they were using it when, for example, they had an Excel spreadsheet with a macro written into it.

Personally I thought it had to be more complex than that to qualify.

AI, however, is picking up and customer examples are emerging. This is why it’s probably a good thing that Infosys, an organisation that offers AI (so by all means take everything they say through a ‘vested interests’ filter), has issued its report on AI Maturity, “Amplifying Human Potential: Towards Purposeful Artificial Intelligence” and taken not only market growth but also the human and ethical element into account.

AI as a market and as a game changer

The existence and growth of the market for AI is beyond any reasonable doubt. Adopters expect a 39% revenue rise by 2020 as a result of the technology, and the top three skills organisations think they’ll need to take advantage of it are development skills, security skills and implementation skills. 77% of respondents to Infosys believed it would be a positive thing in economic terms. More people are exploring the possibilities than actually doing anything with it, as would be expected in the case of a new technology like this.

However, 42% believed ethical concerns would limit AI’s effectiveness. 54 per cent of respondents said their employees were actually afraid of the change. 47 per cent said they were concerned about handing over control to AI, and the same amount thought company culture was set to be a barrier.

Further, two thirds of respondents wanted ethical standards in place for companies deploying the technology. Questions over whether it would ultimately replace or upskill employees or whether they should be redeployed were important, with 80 per cent saying they would retain people whose current tasks become supplanted by technology. That’s easier when you have the theoretical possibility in front of you; in practice it may be slightly different.

AI is inevitable for all sectors, and like all technologies it’s only going to get cheaper and easier the more it proliferates. It becomes self-fulfilling. It’s therefore worth IT professionals considering just what skills their organisation needs in order to keep pace with it – and more particularly, what change management skills they’ll need to handle the people issues.