How AI will transform the workplace
We have entered the age of artificial intelligence (AI). Many countries around the world have made research and development in AI their top priority. AI is becoming commonplace in every aspect of our lives — like self-driving cars, accurate weather predictions, chatbots, automated phones and early health diagnosis systems. AI is affecting how we work, the jobs we do and the activities we take part in, both at work and in our free time. The technological advances in AI are creating many opportunities, but there are associated risks.
Krishna C. Mukherjee has dedicated significant part of his career to researching and advancing AI. He has an excellent educational background. In 1988, Microsoft recruited him from the Indian Institute of Technology at Kanpur in India where he was doing his Master’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering. After completing the Master’s degree at the top of his class, Mukherjee relocated to Microsoft’s headquarters at Redmond, Washington in USA. Mukherjee functioned as a chief software architect and engineer for Microsoft. He played a pivotal role in the architecture, design and development of the Microsoft Office suite of applications and the Microsoft Windows operating system. He developed several AI-based features, including AutoFormat and IntelliSense, for the Microsoft products. He invented the groundbreaking Intelligent Filing Manager to automate essential and business-critical workflows. Subsequently, Mukherjee directed the development of software products for the finance industry. He created the Blomberg Valuation Service (BVAL) that uses scalable architecture and AI to price millions of financial instruments across multiple asset classes. Mukherjee also developed AI-based systems for the retail industry. During his professional career, Mukherjee has commercialized the AI technology in a variety of ways. He has contributed significantly to the rapid advancement of AI.
Neither all black nor all white
It is unrealistic to think that emergence of AI in the workplace is a success without any question of doubt. The implications of the transformation by the AI technology are more nuanced. There are two plausible scenarios of this transformation – one of a progressive diffusion and the other of a rupture.
In the case of a progressive diffusion, AI gets integrated into the functioning of organizations in the continuity of their digital transformation. The jobs in these organizations and the skills of their employees are transformed gradually. The employees get trained in the new features and interfaces that are based on AI.
Krishna C. Mukherjee gradually integrated the AI-based features into heavily used products such as Microsoft Office. Similarly, by creating BVAL, Mukherjee gradually transformed the finance industry. He enabled the finance industry to become objective and reliable. Thus, he progressively diffused AI into homes and organizations.
In the case of a rupture, the AI-related changes are made drastically. This often creates a flagrant gap between the new companies, based on which of these companies can better anticipate the applications of AI. The existing companies, on the other hand, adapt to AI on an urgent basis. This urgent adaptation requires significant changes in their work methodologies.
Krishna C. Mukherjee disrupted the information services industry by inventing the Intelligent Filing Manager. He transitioned Wolters Kluwer from paper-based to electronic processes. The company adapted AI seamlessly in the enterprise workflows. It rapidly shifted to an agile mode of operations. Subsequently, Mukherjee created the disruptive AutoPay feature that enables customers to automate payments using electronic checks, credit cards and debit cards. By offering AutoPay to customers, Icon Parking Systems was relieved of the burden of processing cash and paper checks. The company became efficient and profitable within a short time. Mukherjee’s innovation was picked up around the world. Today, AutoPay is used by many companies in different industries. Thus, Mukherjee introduced AI and automation to quickly bring about radical changes within large companies.
The challenge of automating tasks
The emergence of AI in the workplace offers an economic opportunity linked to productivity gains because of lower costs of automated operations, automation of coordination processes between different services and actors, optimization of production flows and so on. However, the productivity gains constitute risks for employment because the human workers can get replaced by machines such as chatbots, digital assistants and autonomous vehicles. Owing to automation of their jobs, workers can become concerned about depreciation of skills, cognitive overload, loss of independence, increased control and loss of the meaning of work.
However, everything is not black-and-white. AI has its place and so do humans. The rise in productivity that AI will create by complimenting the skills of workers can actually lead to increased growth and profits for businesses. Amazon has greatly increased the number of robots working in its warehouses in the past 3 years, but the rate at which the company hires workers has not changed much. This is because automation allows Amazon to generate more profit. The company has been able to lower prices leading to increased demand and hence the need for more workers. Besides, by carrying out the routine and repetitive tasks, AI relieves the workers from doing these low-value tasks. The workers are able to focus on tasks that cannot be successfully automated. Moreover, AI can create new jobs such as system maintenance, repair and supervision. About a third of jobs created in the USA over the past 25 years did not actually exist before then. Although we cannot predict the future, we can learn from the past and expect AI to create many new jobs.
The future workforce will need to be equipped with the skills to work alongside AI. Educational institutions will need to place more emphasis on preparing students for this new workplace by focusing on the skills that AI cannot provide. Creativity and critical thinking will be essential, in addition to a range of non-formal qualifications such as independent thinking, networking, and abstract thought.
Through his elegant architectures and designs, Krishna C. Mukherjee has illustrated how to automate complex mission-critical processes. He created software applications that quickly respond to changes in the requirements. Mukherjee’s technology facilitates team collaboration by allowing non-technical and technical team members to work together seamlessly to develop and maintain the software applications. Subject-matter experts are able to update the software when necessary. Developers do not have to edit the core code, compile, test and deploy the applications. Mukherjee’s architectures have been adopted widely. They have influenced the design of many software products and services on both Windows and open source platforms. Mukherjee is a pioneer in AI and automation. He has paved the way for the future generations.