Most people geek-out when they hear about machines completing tasks autonomously. Whether it’s a self-driving car, a self-operating drone or a virtual assistant conducting business tasks, automation has become an exciting and intriguing cultural touchpoint.

We receive information from our bank via virtual assistants, we allow automation to select which movies we should watch, and we even let machines deliver our pizzas. These use cases are jaw-dropping for John and Jane Q. Public, but for those engineers who’ve been programming autonomous devices and agents for the past decade, the next frontier of geekdom is the ability to create automations that…wait for it…create their own automations.

You’re probably wondering, “What does that mean?” With cognitive Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and autonomics, software will gain the power to automate processes that lead to new automations. Programs that automate processes can also be automated to monitor human workers’ activity and create new automated processes based on what those humans do. In other words, with AI and automation, a soccer player who watches a guitarist can actually learn through observation to play guitar, and become both a skilled soccer player and a guitarist.

IPsoft’s 1Desk is composed of virtual engineers and a digital colleague named Amelia. Both can watch a human worker perform a task, study that task, and recommend that this task be turned into an automated process. In the complex world of IT operations, these automated workflows span multiple systems and perform intricate tasks that would take human workers away from more valuable functions.

For example, running diagnostics on a SQL server related to an incident, collecting all logs and data files, and adding them to an incident log — this is a process a virtual engineer can autonomously study while it’s being performed by a human engineer. The virtual engineer can master the process, recommend that it be turned into an automation, and if a human manager agrees, the process can be added to the virtual engineer’s catalog of autonomous skills. Now that process is part of the virtual engineer’s knowledge base going forward.

Not every task will be able to be fully automated. However, virtual engineers can learn enough of a process to help automate the bulk of one, and ask for human assistance if and where the automation ceases to work. Here’s an excellent example: A virtual engineer is attempting to onboard a new employee. The virtual engineer has run this exact process 100 times, but always in North America. The virtual engineer handles all of the legal documentation, insurance, pay information, benefits, etc. The process is 95% complete. However, say the company is onboarding its first Australian employee. The virtual engineer is not programmed to procure devices outside of the US. The virtual engineer asks a human for help, monitors the steps the human takes to solve the issue, and the virtual engineer can now ask permission to add device procurement in Australia to its automation skillset.

The first thing people are going to wonder is: Will AI become so smart that it learns to override human control. The answer is: No. AI is programmed to follow established procedures with precision. The vast majority of responsibly created AI will never deviate from the exact processes established for them. They can, for example, approve and reject credit card payments, or suggest products and customizations, but they won’t autonomously reveal credit card data to consumers in tertiary conversations, and they won’t decide to use a customer’s credit card to go on a spending spree. Responsibly created AI will learn a new task and ask if they can apply that task in the future. If a human says no, the automation is rejected and the AI never applies what it has learned.

However, in those situations where a human says yes, an AI system quickly learns how to automate automations, bringing new levels of speed, efficiency, and innovation to a company’s IT operations. And as more companies adopt AI for this approach, consumers and customers will geek out over these autonomous actions as well.

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