Home' HR Monthly : October 2018 Contents 38
HR TECH TALK
“ To what degree
will we see the
the work of the
DAVID BROWN, PARTNER AND LEAD
OF HUMAN CAPITAL PRACTICE,
o quote the late Stephen Hawking, the
rise of artificial intelligence could be
the worst or best thing that has ever
happened to humanity. And while he was
referring to a potential superintelligence, there
are more prosaic outcomes that are already
having an effect.
For instance, when you picture the
organisation chart of the future, do you think
all the positions will still be human? According
to Toby Walsh, professor of AI at UNSW, they
won’t. Speaking at the 2018 AHRI Convention
in Melbourne, he said organisations had already
penned an AI function into their org chart. “In
the past, it was our muscles that we’re being
replaced. Now it’s our brains,” said Walsh.
Deloitte’s partner and lead of human capital
practice, David Brown, had a different take on
Walsh’s point. “We saw technology impact the
work of the hands... now we’re at a point where
we’re starting to augment and influence the
work of the head. But to what degree will we see
the augmentation of the work of the heart?”
That each speaker chose a different verb –
“replaced” and “augment” – neatly sums up the
future we’re facing. The changes AI will bring
are not set in stone. We have decisions to make.
One road bump is that the pace of AI
advancement is likely to decrease. The amount
of computing power used to train AI has
been doubling every 3.5 months, according
to a recent OpenAI report. At the same time,
Moore’s Law is not what it once was – it takes
more than two years for the transistor count
that drives computing power to double.
Unless something changes, these two nu mbers
will clash. AI training – which has allowed us to
make tremendous advances very quickly – will
hit the upper limit of total processing power,
and our rapid development will slow down.
Open and closed jobs
If we’re going to make the right choices about
AI, it’s important we understand what it can
and can’t do, Walsh told his audience.
We have been taught to think of AI as taking
over ‘routine’ job tasks, such as factory line
production or data entry, leaving ‘non-routine’
tasks to humans. But it might be more helpful to
divide work into ‘open’ and ‘closed’ jobs.
The latter, explained Walsh, would be
something like window cleaning. One of the
numerous robot prototypes currently being
developed will one day completely replace
humans as window cleaners. Some people will
be out of a job, but there are only so many
windows to clean. The robot cleaners cannot
branch out into other roles, so their impact will
be transformative, but limited.
An example of an open job is a scientist, said
Walsh. When AI or robots begin to take over
scientific tasks, even those that aren't routine,
they don’t replace the human. They free them
up for other, new tasks. We’re still far more
adaptable than machines, and in science there
are always “more windows to clean”.
Jobs we want humans to do
Another mistake we make when we talk about
automation is believing that just because a
computer can take over a job, it will do so.
While some robots can strut the catwalk, the
fashionistas of the world shouldn’t be concerned
about a stylishly appointed machine stealing
their job, said Walsh.
Obviously the suggestion is facetious, but it
speaks to a larger truth. Some jobs we don’t
want machines to take. Think of the premium
you pay for handcrafted furniture. The value of
some work is the fact that it was accomplished
by a human.
Because even if it were feasible, would you
want to be recruited, onboarded or made
redundant by an AI? •••
THE 4TH INDUSTRIAL
REVOLUTION & HRM
RMIT University and AHRI are collaborating to
learn the views of HRM professionals about the
impacts of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – the
fusion of technologies that are predicted to affect
all industries, organisations, workplaces, jobs and
work skills. Share your views by taking the sur vey.
with a heart?
There are some jobs we don't want
robots to take.
REPORT FROM AHRI’S HR TECH CONFERENCE
21/9/18 12:26 pm
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