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“Robots” are here, and they are here to stay.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is silently taking its roots in the modern world. It has created smart homes and offices, boosted security with facial recognition technology, assisted drivers in navigating rush hour traffic, and made people like or buy things through behaviour-reading predictive algorithms.
While AI is making a lot of things easier, some people fear that these “robots” will take over their jobs. With AI demonstrating its incredible ability to mimic or even surpass human capabilities, their fear. Or is it?
A World Economic Forum study published in 2020 projects up to 85 million jobs could be lost to these smart machines. On a positive note, the same study also projects that the new division of labour between humans and machines will create 97 million new roles to offset what was lost.
There is historical data to support how AI can lead to more jobs even in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, a veteran IT leader said, citing how the first Industrial Revolutions could have a massive negative impact on human work.
“People were scared that the development of machines during the Industrial Revolution was going to take away jobs, but instead it changed the way we work and in fact created more jobs,” said Henry Vassall Jones, Emapta’s Chief Technology Officer.
A McKinsey Global Institute research published in 2017 shared some proof of this outcome, showing how the rise of personal computers, which was predicted to cause massive job losses, created even more jobs (19.3 million) in the US than it destroyed (3.5 million) from 1970 to 2015.
It even gave rise to some of the industry giants today like Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft.
The same goes with rise of AI or the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” the McKinsey study said, stressing that adopting smart automated systems will have varied effects in different industries. It also suggested that parts of work, not actual job roles per se, will feel the impact of AI adoption.
“Activities most susceptible to automation include physical ones in predictable environments, such as operating machinery and preparing fast food. Collecting and processing data are two other categories of activities that increasingly can be done better and faster with machines,” the paper showed.
“It is important to note, however, that even when some tasks are automated, employment in those occupations may not decline but rather workers may perform new tasks,” it added, stressing AI will have lesser impact on roles that involve managing people, applying expertise, and social interactions.
Some of the industries that are projected to see employment growth with the rise of AI include IT professionals, technology specialists, engineers, scientists, accountants, machine educators, artists, healthcare providers, builders, and manual service jobs in unpredictable environments.
Harnessing AI to create working “Iron Men”
In the end, AI will always just be a tool, added Roy Figueroa, whose job as Emapta’s Client Solutions Director includes managing and dealing with leaders from different industries. These smart machines, he stressed, will always need human intervention.
“AIs need to be programmed correctly to be useful and efficient. And they’ll need constant reprogramming as our needs change. AIs have and will continue to replace humans in the performance of routinary tasks just like machines took over the production lines in factories,” he said.
“However, the software engineers and the people involved in the training of AIs will always be a necessity just like the mechanical engineers are now to machines or robots in production lines,” he added.
Henry added that while AIs can collect and organise data faster than humans, in the end, it will still be the people who will have to interpret the information.
“A machine can do things faster. It can analyse much larger data sets, provide analytics and statistics which would take a human longer, but also somebody needs to be there to interpret, and it’s still going to be the people,” he said.
The same goes for labour, a 2018 research by accounting firm PwC explained, noting that the combination of AI and humans – “Iron Men” of sorts – will become the new normal in the workforce of the future.
“A human engineer defines a part’s materials, desired features, and various constraints, and inputs it into an AI system, which generates a number of simulations. Engineers then either choose one of the options or refine their inputs and ask the AI to try again,” it said.
AI will need continual tweaking and customising for it to be adopted by businesses, the study added, which will need “functional specialists” like economists, analysts, and traders who can identify where the AI can best support human asset managers, help design and train the AI.
An AI-augmented BPO industry
Henry believes the BPO industry will play a major role when businesses begin to fully embrace AI. Offshoring firms like Emapta will be able to respond to a potential increase in demand.
“I think that the start-up industry and the IT sector can definitely benefit from Emapta’s services because we’re able to provide skilled resources that would be able to work on these projects,” he said.
AI will also help workers of the BPO industry to reduce routine or repetitive tasks, like data entry, transcription, approvals, request updates — tasks that consume precious work hours — so the workers can focus on the most important aspects of the job.
“A closer review of what everyone does versus what available technology offers in terms of data management, and customer relationship management, will show that we perform a lot of repetitive tasks that otherwise would bog down businesses,” Roy added.
Roy said harnessing AI and bots is aligned with the clients’ primary objective when outsourcing or offshoring, which is to reduce cost through employment of less expensive but higher quality team members.
Henry and Roy also agree that if there’s one thing that can’t be replicated by AIs is to have an emotional connection to the work being done. This human element is important, especially when understanding and empathising with the customers.
The Philippines, through the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), has already launched its “AI Roadmap” last May. The program’s goal is to make the Philippines a “central AI hub” in Southeast Asia.
With the continuous improvement of the country’s infrastructures and the entry of new players in the telecommunications industry, the future of tech and AI in the Philippines is bright, and Emapta is ready to reap its benefits.
And while AI is seen to make work efficient for people, Emapta continues to make business efficient for companies of all sizes. Emapta is a full-service outsourcing specialist that has been helping businesses reduce risk and lower cost across the globe for over a decade now.
With the mantra “Your Team, Your Way,” Emapta provides total flexibility to businesses with fully customizable office/home setup, culture and IT configuration. It has been helping businesses scale by leveraging top talent and business process expertise.