Being digital means being more human

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What happens when algorithms and analytics are blended with the human abilities? Can technology actually augment the work we perform? What will work even look like in ten years’ time, when about 35% of current jobs in the UK are at risk of computerization? This, and many other things, were discussed during Cognizant Connect in Oslo.

Most companies, regardless of whether it’s within banking, oil and gas, insurance or retail, ponder over how to capture value from the virtual. No matter of sector, most companies now compete on software, according to Euan Davis, Senior Director at Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work, and the success depends on how well you master software in your company and in your value chain.

This is something that European companies are well aware of. When respondents in the Cognizant Work Ahead research were asked to rate the impact of forces on work by 2020, the Top 3 forces were business analytics, AI, and cloud delivery of services.

Lack of leadership
What’s the problem with that? Unfortunately, the scorecard for leading and accelerating the digital shift falls short with a worrying lack of clarity at the top, lack of urgency and weak leadership, according to the same research. Leadership in the digital shift is surely a tough gig. To survive the future of work, there are three important rules to understand, says Euan Davis:

  • Platforms really matters. Think of it as layers of software that surrounds people, processes and things, and captures data. LinkedIn is a platform around you, Alexa a platform around your home. Tons of business opportunities are sparked and channeled around these platforms.
  • Innovation really matters. The pace of innovation is too slow for how quickly business change. Try to bring innovation inside the organization, be more fluid, connected and social, blend teams and work styles to make work that counts, and remember that APIs are the glue that make platforms and innovations stick together.
  • Machines really matter. Will a robot take your job? Maybe, but don’t forget that robots basically are clever software that mimic human behavior and do things at scale. The smart, savvy leaders are using this to change the narrative of the organization.

AI augments us
So, what happens when human nature meets that human imitation then? James Jeude, Global VP, AIM Analytics and Information Management in Cognizant, knows. He believes building robust AI and anticipating intentional misuse, should be part of our design philosophy as we look to unleash AI’s power to assist and guide us.

Simplified, AI is about machines that learn. That’s why AI should be thought of as a child; we need to guide it and teach the algorithm right from wrong. Humans are at the starting point – before applying the technology. With our supervision, AI can reduce costs, improve product and service quality, introduce new experiences, improve safety, quality of life and society.

One example of when AI can enhance a given experience, is when a car accident occurs. AI can assist by stitching together a complex series of events – weather, voice stress detection, acquaintances nearby, prior vehicle maintenance, etc. – to transform the whole insurance process into something faster, smoother and much more intelligent. But AI should augment, not replace, humans.

Designing with help of AI
One who is using AI in his everyday work, is Frode Strand, CIO at Kværner. The company designs and builds jackets, a steel substructure used in a range of offshore structures within oil and gas. The structure needs to stand extremely tough conditions, and while the designs may vary between the jackets, there are patterns; regular structures with a lot of symmetry.

This is a perfect starting point for machine learning. Kværner uses algorithms and massive computing power to generate and analyze various designs, elements like brace placements, elevation location or joint optimization, to arrive at a viable solution quickly – a solution that is optimized for weight, cost, and building time. The overall aim is to offer clients alternate solutions depending on any parameter they add – may it be water depth, soil conditions, weather or cost issues.

And the human aspect? The engineers are key, and their deep knowledge of the domain, modelling and constraints is what constitutes the AI design tool.

You can watch the full seminar here.

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