Written by Dr.Tony Miller, adjunct Professor, MBA, FCIPD, FinstAM, MRSH, MAPS, MBPS, FILM Author of the book The New world of Human Resources and Employment How artificial intelligence and process re design is driving dramatic change. Published December 2018 (BEP New York)

Historical development

Unprecedented changes are happening in the world of work. What is of particular interest is; they are all happening at the same time.

We have the most significant advancement in Artificial intelligence, which is now working, and it is beyond our full comprehension. What is staggering – this has happened dramatically since 2014. It is causing a massive paradigm shift that is irreversible and it will change life and work, as we know it forever. To put this into context; if one looks at the development of humankind from 9000 years BC to today what we see in the past few years is expediential growth (Buckeridge 2017). The development of the gross world product has outstripped anything that has cumulatively happened before – and it has happened dramatically fast.

Three predictions:

  •  “By 2027 every process will be managed by A.I.” (Professor Christian Buckeridge 2017) University of Bonn, Germany
  • “By 2027 70% of all S&P companies will have disappeared” McKinsey 2016
  • “60% of all professions will be affected by automation” McKinsey 2016

If you do not have a strategy for A.I., already you need to activate one now. Progress is moving so fast organizations cannot afford to wait, the change will not wait – that is for sure.

Artificial Intelligence has come to the fore due to three significant factors.

  1. The first is what we refer to as Big Data. We now can manipulate vast quantities of stored data and with that data produce predictive outcomes. What’s been in the press often; is how our digital footprint is now being used. From the moment you ever switched on a computer, mobile phone, tablet or used a credit card; that data has been recorded, stored, shuffled, packaged and sold by companies such as Axiom. Big data is now available to all.
  2. Affordable High Powered Computing. Processing speeds and storage have increased, and prices of computing have dramatically dropped. We now have Quantum Computers, some of which allow free access.
  3. The emergence of deep learning systems, systems that start to learn by themselves using cognitive learning – no need for old style programming.

The formula then is

BD + HPC + DLS = Artificial Intelligence.

You will hear the term neuro networks used quite a lot, so here is an attempt to explain what they are. In the past we have the straightforward mathematical computation an input, weighting and addition, then that gives us a mathematical output.

Artificial intelligence particularly deep learning, develops things further and has become a significant advancement only in a relatively short period. 

In artificial intelligence, we connect many layers of neurons in fact now day’s we have millions of these as paired inputs and likewise a multitude of outputs. Deep neural networks are vast and so complicated; the big breakthrough recently is that they now have cognitive ability to process; this has made a dramatic improvement and change. It can be called self-thinking. The program can automatically alters the weighting and will keep self-adjusting to achieve pre-determined outcomes Credited for this is probably Geoffrey Hinton, the company who has been most instrumental in exploiting this GOOGLE, Face Book and Amazon

To instruct artificial intelligence and to get it to solve problems we use algorithms.  An algorithm is a detailed series of instructions for carrying out an operation or solving a problem. In a non-technical approach, we use algorithms in everyday tasks, such as a recipe to bake a cake or a do-it-yourself handbook.

A.I. system computers use algorithms to list the detailed instructions for carrying out an operation. For example, to compute an employee’s pay check, the computer uses an algorithm. To accomplish this task, appropriate data is entered into the system. Regarding efficiency, various algorithms can accomplish operations or problem solving easily and quickly.

However, it is important to note that a programming algorithm is not computer code. It is written in simple English (or whatever the programmer speaks). It does not beat around the bush–it has a start, middle, and an end. In fact, you will probably label the first step ‘start’ and the last step ‘end.’ It includes only what you need to carry out the task. It does not include anything unclear, often called ambiguous, in computer lingo that someone is reading it might wonder about. (2018 Study .com)

There are breakthroughs in every area of business; the finance industry, for example, had found that Artificial Intelligence is a better and safer way to do financial trading. 

In our personal lives we seem to have already embraced Apple’s Siri , Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Micro Soft Cortana all of which are forms of A.I.

A.I. Today is so advanced; let me quote from Prof. M Kosinski.

“Computer algorithms, deep learning models are now way to complicated for humans to understand.”

Artificial intelligence will impact every facet of our lives for those of us in Human Resources; there needs to be immediate changes to our strategy for us to prepare and manage this massive paradigm shift adequately, it is happening now. For Human Resource Professionals there as never been such a big challenge and opportunity. Some assistance may be sought from;

  • Google Tenser Flow. It is the A.I. software that Google uses, and it is a library of information that is available for free. Google is planning that 80% of all the worlds A.I. applications will run on this platform.
  • Tenser Flow is currently being used by the American Military (2018 Independent)
  • Facebook has open sourced their neural network libraries.
  • Microsoft has open sourced their computational network toolkit
  • The new age Quantum computers are now available, and some companies are allowing free access, for example, D Wave.
  • In August 2018 Apple became the first Trillion dollar company in the USA(2018 B)
  • In China, they are currently producing $5 chipsets that give A.I. enablement (2017 PD) China are leading the world in A.I. start ups.

The Russian President in a CNN interview made the following comment:

“Artificial intelligence is the future, not only of Russia, but of all of mankind,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said. “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”(CNN 2017)

Algorithms feed artificial intelligence; this is an entirely different approach than before. We have seen this year people solve challenging medical problems – yet they have NO medical experience – this is the uniqueness of algorithms and deep learning.

The massive impact for employment numbers

There are currently four factors that will make the biggest changes in our lifestyle and the way we work. We have already looked at artificial intelligence. The other issues, which will affect human resources, include older workers, hours of work and universal basic income. Artificial Intelligence, robotics and process redesign will all vastly reduce the need for people in all organizations – worldwide. Some things to consider (Dr T.Miller 2018):

  1. The ageing workforce

The first is to do with an ageing workforce. In the West, and Far East the ageing skilled workforce is becoming a big problem. Governments realize that pension funds are insufficient and move across the world is to rise the age of retirement. Retiring at 70 has been proposed and looks like being implemented. In the UK one suggestion is to raize the age to 73 before 2020.

In America, 16.6% of the population will be over 65 by 2020, in Germany 21.6%. (Roth CBS)

In Japan the 65’s and over account for 51.7% of the workforce –including women (N.A. 2016)

Three critical factors about age and employment:

  • Governments are probably unlikely to be able to support the aging workforce
  • Employers have invested a lifetime of training and education in seniors – why let them go?
  • The massive increase in robotics complements an ageing workforce perfectly.

The work opportunity for the young does not look good the evidence of this can be seen everywhere, fresh graduates ending up working in coffee shops or other low paid semi-skilled work. A big challenge will be Generation Z or i Gen as they are known. This group will be discussed later in the book.

Fewer hours of work

Linked with the rapid advancement of technology, also the ageing workforce and certainly robotics the working hours are reducing. Germany’s workforce has successfully negotiated a 28-hour working week. (F.T. 2018)

The significance of this will be to accelerate, robotics and artificial intelligence use. It will also give employers the opportunity to right- size their organizations with the massive financial benefits that it would bring.

Rightsizing is already becoming an essential management tool and for a good reason.

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