There’s a growing belief that artificial intelligence will take over the world one day. Although science fiction movies depict this as a real-life iRobot uprising, the more immediate concern is the displacement of human workers. Machines have already taken over many manual labor jobs in factories, assembly lines, and warehouses. There’s no denying that artificial intelligence (AI) has impacted the workforce, but overall it’s changed it for the better. Today, AI is taking on the burden of performing manual, remedial, and repetitive tasks, giving people the freedom to perform more advanced and meaningful work. This may sound like a utopian ideal, but it’s already happening in ways you may not realize.
Amazon, which is projected to own 50% of retail market-share in the US by 2020, has grown exponentially by implementing sorting robots in its warehouses. Rather than displacing human workers, humans now hold more supervisory roles in these distribution centers and no longer have to do the grunt work of moving heavy boxes or performing physically strenuous tasks.
Another example is the Roomba (my mom’s favorite), which uses AI and sensor detection to store household floor plans to take over the manual chore of vacuuming. Although automated factory and assembly work has not been measured from a “happiness” metric standpoint, it’s easy to see how the removal of these tedious tasks has improved our lives.
Self-driving autonomous vehicles will change transportation as we know it, clearing up highways and reducing rush hour traffic jams. Although there are some concerns about drivers losing their jobs, it’s almost guaranteed to make our roadways dramatically safer for everyone. So far, jobs are even being created in this industry as self-driving car divisions grow.
Back office auditing
In the back office, AI is taking over the review of expense reports, invoices, and contracts. Without AI, this process is manual, menial, repetitive and complex for human auditors, who are tasked with finding errors and fraud in thousands of documents, which is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Auditors usually resort to random sampling, which might give them peace of mind, but doesn’t do much to actually find fraud or deter bad behavior. No matter the percentage of review, this process is never 100% accurate, and companies are writing blind checks. With the introduction of AI, auditors who once did the remedial tasks of randomly sampling documents can now focus their attention on actual risk that needs human level review and investigation to catch misuse and potential fraud prepayment.
AI is overall meant to make our lives easier and better. Unlike the vengeful robots in iRobot, AI is like the helpful garbage-packing robots in Wall-E, taking over manual labor to improve our lives.