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    Message of the week

    Week 27
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    AI and the workplace

    It is hard to imagine life without technology now. The internet of things, for example, has transformed how we interact with the world around us, and given our phones, our watches and our lightbulbs, the ability to sense, connect and communicate.

    Ideas like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning were once the talk of science fiction novelists, and now we are starting to see their integration into our everyday lives. We now have computers in our pockets that can see and hear, understand where they are in space, retain memory and give you real time updates about what’s happening in the world around you. Mark Weiser (considered the father of this pervasive computing idea, also known as ubiquitous computing) once said, “The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”

    For some, these innovations are exciting; after all, who doesn’t want self-driving cars that ensure safer roads, healthcare services that are more accessible, more efficient deliveries and farming processes that are more economical and environmentally friendly? But, for others, this rapid advancement in technology poses a different, and seemingly more ominous question… What happens to the people who lose their jobs to the machines? How do we compete?

    It’s not an unreasonable fear if we look at the beginning of this year, for example, when Standard Bank announced their plans to cut 1200 jobs and close 91 branches, in the process of digitisation. There is no doubt that we are at a crossroads in history, where technology holds both the promise of growth, and the potential for disruption. How we handle it is the choice we now face – because we no longer get to choose NOT to have the technology. It is here, it is already growing at an exponential rate, and we cannot put the proverbial genie back in the bottle.

    There is hope, however, according to John Hagel, founder of Deloitte Center for the Edge, and a faculty member of the Singularity University. He believes the shift we are taking is a necessary and exciting one, and that by giving routine tasks to machines, we can truly tap into human potential, and put human resources to work, creating value through creative ideas, innovation, finding solutions to international challenges and looking for previously unseen or untouched opportunities.

    So how do we make sure we are on the right side of history?
    We can look to organisations like Singularity University – “a global learning and innovation community using exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges and build an abundant future for all”.

    The SingularityU community includes entrepreneurs, corporations, global non-profits, governments and academic institutions in more than 127 countries, with two branches in South Africa: Johannesburg and Cape Town. Such organisations can inspire us to work with technology, utilising it in a way that is meaningful and impactful, to help shape a future that is sustainable and beneficial for all of us.

    To gain better insight and understanding into some of the latest cutting-edge technologies, and how organisations are utilising them to positively impact billions of people, follow

    Singularity Hub at singularityhub.com.

    These are thrilling times, let’s make sure we’re not hit by a tsunami, by making sure we understand the breakthroughs and future trends.

    JP Lourens - Solutions Sales Manager - KYOCERA Document Solutions South Africa 

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