Many observers are worried that cognitive technologies and automated decision systems will replace large numbers of workers, including knowledge workers. Key tasks performed by physicians, lawyers, marketers, journalists, and even data scientists are at risk from these technologies. At the same time, cognitive technologies also offer unparalleled opportunity to dramatically improve both key business processes and the human condition.
Highly negative predictions are probably unwarranted, at least in the short run. Even relatively administrative jobs (e.g., bank tellers) have shown little decrease in employment over the last 40 years. In addition, smart machines replace specific tasks, not entire jobs. Finally, there will be many new jobs involving working with and alongside intelligent technologies.
Drawing on his recent book, Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines (Harper Business), Tom Davenport describes both the threat of automation and the promise of augmentation—combining smart machines with smart people—and explores five roles that individuals can adopt to add value to AI, as well as what these roles mean for businesses. Tom also discusses the roles of businesses, organizations, and governments in preparing their employees and citizens to be effective collaborators with intelligent machines. There are valid roles for people in working with smart machines, but they will require significant preparation. Complacency is not an option.
Tom Davenport is the President’s Distinguished Professor of Information Technology and Management at Babson College, the cofounder of the International Institute for Analytics, a fellow of the MIT Center for Digital Business, and a senior advisor to Deloitte Analytics. Tom teaches analytics and big data in executive programs at Babson, Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan School, and Boston University. He pioneered the concept of “competing on analytics” with his best-selling 2006 Harvard Business Review article (and his 2007 book by the same name). Tom has written or edited 17 books and over 100 articles for Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review, the Financial Times, and many other publications. He also writes a weekly column for the Wall Street Journal’s Corporate Technology section. His most recent book is Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart Machines (with Julia Kirby). Tom has been named one of the Top Three Business/Technology Analysts in the World, one of the 100 Most Influential People in the IT Industry, and one of the world’s Top 50 Business School Professors by Fortune magazine. Tom earned a PhD from Harvard University in social science and has taught at the Harvard Business School, the University of Chicago, Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, Boston University, and the University of Texas at Austin.
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