The future of AI in the workplace: Scared or Prepared?
Author Jessica Swanepoel  | 

Artificial intelligence in the workplace has always been described as a double-edged sword, as technology gets better, potential issues become worse. In an infamous blog, Seth Godin wrote [1] ‘the person who invented the ship also invented the shipwreck.’ This idea is so great as it implies that you set your course of action, but you must take responsibility for whatever comes from that action.

Innovations bring new possibilities, but it is difficult to foresee the potential knock-on effects these possibilities will bring, and even more difficult to control them. The current economic climate and the future is uncertain, because of this many businesses find it difficult to navigate this environment. As as we move into the new year, let’s unpack how AI and the future of work are related and how businesses can prepare for tomorrow’s digital economy.

We have always seen predictions of future technology, with tales of cities in the skies, self-driving cars and tubes that can transport you to work within seconds. Although the concept of AI has been around for centuries, it was only in the 1950s that its possibility was truly explored by Alan Turing, when he suggested that if humans use available information and reason, how come machines can’t be taught to do the same? His thinking was outlined in his paper Computing Machinery and Intelligence in 1950 [2].

Although many associate artificial intelligence with the high-tech humanoid robots Elon Musk is prototyping at Tesla [3], AI is all around us and already in your workplace. Google maps, spellcheck plugins, and Siri are all forms of AI. Even the CV you submitted was most likely screened by AI!

Now, this doesn’t mean that a robot will take your job. Robb Wilson, an AI researcher and author of the Age of Invisible Machines [4] says ‘’As more and more of the mundane tasks people are forced to do in the name of productivity become intelligently automated using AI, people will be free to do what we all do best and what makes us happiest: creative problem-solving.’’

We have seen this already take place. Even 10 years ago having skills in Word and Excel was an advantage when applying for a job, while now they are seen as mandatory. We shouldn’t see the advancements of AI as a threat, but technology as our partner in creating a world in which everyone’s job is in one way or another facilitated by technology innovations.

Artificial intelligence opens new opportunities and to make lives easier, both in the workplace and in our day-to-day lives. It is easy to get caught up in the feeling of the impending threat, however, the application of AI to the workplace will bring new forms of value, increase efficiency, the ability to be creative, and enables people to focus on the work that really matters.

Businesses should help their employees close the digital skills gap by preparing them for the new, and ever-changing world of AI, and how it will impact and benefit the future of work. Digital skills are key according to 92% of businesses, a report from the Learning & Work [5] institute shows. ‘’More than eight in ten young people realise digital skills will be essential for their future careers and 70% expect employers to train them on the job.’’


A commitment to possibility | Seth’s Blog ( [1]

Microsoft Word – TuringTest.doc ( [2]

Elon Musk reveals Tesla is building a humanoid robot – CBS News [3]

Robb Wilson – Age of invisible Machines [4]

How are businesses closing the global digital skills gap? | World Economic Forum ( [5]