Note: The topics and subjects covered in this article will be discussed in-depth during IPsoft’s second annual Digital Workforce Summit on June 7. See registration link below.

When discussing the future of work as it pertains to Artificial Intelligence (AI) it’s common for pundits to slip into hyperbole. Entire roles will be eliminated, entire classes of workers will be left unemployed, and the gulf between the richest and poorest will be expanded—these are just some of the doomsday scenarios mentioned.

More reasonable estimates, such as the ones published by Forrester Research, predict automation will displace 24.7 million jobs by 2027. This equates to a job loss of 17% between 2017 and 2027. However, the prediction estimates new technology will also create 14.9 million jobs in the next decade, with automation creating jobs equivalent to 10% of the workforce through 2027. These changes will lead to a net loss of 9.8 million US jobs by 2027. Sounds bad doesn’t it? Only if you assume that by 2027 the digital business landscape will be exactly the same as it is today.

So what happens to those estimated 9.8 million workers whose jobs were eliminated because of automation? According to a McKinsey study, A Future that Works: Automation, Employment and Productivity, new jobs and roles will emerge that will give displaced workers opportunities to catch on with companies that have shifted to automation.

Many workers will have to change, and we expect business processes to be transformed,” the report states. “However, the scale of shifts in the labor force over many decades that automation technologies can unleash is not without precedent. It is of a similar order of magnitude to the long-term technology-enabled shifts away from agriculture in developed countries’ workforces in the 20th century. Those shifts did not result in long-term mass unemployment, because they were accompanied by the creation of new types of work.

Roles and Tasks Will Change Thanks to AI

We don’t need to look as far back as the industrial revolution to understand what happens when technology begins to do the work of humans. Just look at what happened when email was invented: Email undoubtedly led to the need for fewer mail carriers. People were able to correspond without having to write, envelop, stamp, and mail letters that would arrive days later in someone’s mailbox. Instead, people used technology to instantly send correspondence without the need for someone to carry a letter from place to place.

Now that we’ve become accustomed to receiving emails for work and personal correspondence, think about how many jobs have been created. Productivity at work has dramatically improved, which has led to the need for more workers to handle an ever-increasing volume of tasks. Depending on the company, this increased productivity has led to new types of products, services and revenue.

Amelia is intended to take on repetitive processes that free humans for more complex and unique endeavors.

Technology companies like Google and Microsoft have had to hire workers to oversee the delivery of massive volumes of Gmail and Outlook messages sent each day. Marketers whose sole focus is the email channel have been tasked with luring you to online stores to buy their products. Technology vendors such as Hubspot, Marketo, and Pardot launched companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars whose main focus is helping businesses ensure marketing emails find the right customers. While it’s difficult to know the exact number of jobs that the invention of email helped create, my guess is it would be exponentially larger than the number of jobs lost by mail carriers.

Cooperation between workers and technology is what leads McKinsey to estimate that automation could raise productivity growth globally by 0.8 to 1.4% annually. Much of this productivity will be driven by virtual personal assistants (VPAs), or what Helen Poitevin, Research Director at Gartner, describes as “our work partners.”

IPsoft’s Role in the Future of Work

This is where IPsoft’s role in the automation industry comes into play. With IPsoft’s Amelia we’ve built a work partner, or as we refer to her, a digital colleague, that is designed to collaborate with human workers and customers to provide faster, more intelligent, and more rewarding experiences. Whether she’s working as a customer service agent in the travel industry helping passengers book flights, rental cars, and hotels, or working as a mortgage processor’s assistant by analyzing applications and organizing loan paperwork, she’s designed to function side-by-side with humans.

Amelia is intended to take on repetitive processes that free humans for more complex and unique endeavors. So, instead of having a human colleague answer 100 calls per day resetting customer passwords, Amelia will take on this task. This frees the human colleague to help customers with more important projects and issues.

The beauty of a digital colleague such as Amelia is that she can also help with more important processes. She can serve as a whisper agent, or a silent helper, guiding human colleagues. For example: If an insurance agent is on a call with a customer and he or she isn’t able to remember the customer’s exact policy information, he or she can ask the digital colleague to bring that information up onto his or her laptop or smartphone screen. I mentioned mortgage processing earlier: A human mortgage processor can chat with a potential borrower while Amelia sorts through the borrower’s paperwork, runs the numbers, and pre-approves the mortgage—meanwhile, all of this is happening without the human colleague ever taking attention away from his or her clients.

The future of work will include AI. People, processes, and performance will all be impacted by the automation provided by AI. Some jobs will inevitably be lost as a result of intelligent automation. Instead of looking at which roles will be usurped by AI, cutting edge companies are already looking at how AI can serve as a collaborative tool to get the most out of new and existing roles.

Please join us at the Digital Workforce Summit on June 7th, 2018. Complimentary registration here!