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No robots required: AI will eliminate these jobs first

Dan Tynan | June 29, 2016
AI is poised to shake up IT work, eliminating jobs and creating opportunities alike

Meet your newest employee, Amelia. She's intelligent, well groomed, and responsive to your moods. If she seems a little robotic, well, that's because she's actually an artificially intelligent entity living inside a software platform.  

From Alexa to Viv, the world is now full of voice-enabled cloud-connected assistants. But Amelia is more than merely a series of speech-savvy algorithms -- she's Siri with a doctorate in psychology.

Thanks to advances in semantic analysis, Amelia can step you all the way through a sophisticated business process, like purchasing insurance. By analyzing the language you use and your tone of voice, Amelia can also detect when you're unhappy and pass you immediately to a human. Then, as you're unspooling your anger to a long-suffering support agent, Amelia listens and applies what she learns to future interactions.

Amelia, AI assistant

One day, Amelia or one of her artificially intelligent cousins might become your indispensable IT assistant.

"Amelia is not just another fun and friendly chatbot," says Ben Case, solutions architect for IPsoft, the "digital labor company" that created her. "Her goal is to be practical and pragmatic; to answer questions, retrieve information, and solve problems using her semantic network and sophisticated sentiment analysis."

Today, Amelia is being trained to help sell insurance, prequalify people for mortgages, and provide customer support. While most of these efforts remain pilot programs at the time of this writing, Amelia is starting to emerge into the business world. In May, Accenture launched a dedicated Amelia practice to help its clients deploy virtual agents across their organizations.

One day, Amelia or one of her artificially intelligent cousins might become your indispensable IT assistant, taking on the work of level-one tech support, troubleshooting problems, or detecting security anomalies. Then again, she might replace you entirely -- or you could end up working for her.

Here, we take a look at AI's evolving role in the IT workplace, with an eye on how it might impact your career in the years ahead.

What artificial intelligence in the workplace really looks like

Everybody thinks they know what AI is. It's the thing that enables computers to defeat chess champions and win at "Jeopardy." It's what allows Siri and Alexa to understand what we're saying to them and respond in a humanlike manner.

When exposed to the dregs of the Internet, AI can also be turned into a Nazi-loving hate-spouting sex bot. And thanks to Hollywood, we know AI as the thing that will eventually attempt to enslave and/or exterminate humanity.

The classic notion of AI is a machine so smart it fools you into thinking it's a person. But "artificial intelligence" has become a catchall for a jumble of technologies -- such as machine learning, natural language processing, cognitive computing, and robotic process automation -- that automate rote tasks and help people make better decisions.


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