Automation in the past was applied to work that requires powerful force or is dangerous, sophisticated and repeated for human by using hardware-based ‘machine’. Recent forms of automation, however, are expanding into the office automation area with the software-based robot due to the emergence of cognitive technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and the OCR (optical character recognition) and the rise of automation solutions such as the RPA (robotic process automation). Some areas that used to be regarded as the area that only human can do including some intelligent and creative work are now operated by software robots. These robots not only repeatedly implement what humans order but autonomously decide and implement some tasks through self-learning. There’s a growing trend of areas where AI-based automation is applied.
This article will touch upon the automation trend, how much the current automation-related technology has developed and how human’s work will be redefined in the context of software.
The development of automation derived from the advancement of technology such as AI and robotics has provided a variety of benefits to humans including productivity, efficiency, safety and convenience. In the meantime, this asks us a fundamental question: Doesn’t it mean that humans lose jobs in many fields as there are more items for automation and the automation range expands. In particular, those who never imaged AI to be highly advanced have been not only surprised but threatened by the increasing dominance of AI when the Go Player Lee Se-dol was defeated by the computer program called AlphaGo. This was an opportunity to let the general public realize that AI may not only carry out some of what humans usually do but surpass what humans do. Also, people started to realize that some areas that used to be regarded as humans’ own field can be intervened and completed by AI. A research by Oxford University supports the idea that 47% of jobs in North America will be replaced by robots within 15-20 years.
Humans have been through a total of three industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution in the 18th century was a ‘mechanical revolution’, triggered by the invention of the steam engine. The second industrial revolution in the 19th century was inspired by the invention of electricity, which became the ‘revolution of mass production’. The third revolution can be defined as ‘information technology revolution’ based on the Internet in the 20th century.
Historically, new (or rather destructive) technologies triggered each industrial revolution. Whenever those technologies emerged, people were concerned about whether they would lose jobs as they were afraid of new technologies that may replace their workforce. Looking back, however, technological innovation destroyed traditional jobs with changes in industrial structures in the end and created more new jobs at the same time. Such innovation and automation rather reduced errors and innovation in productivity was realized through the quality and speed improvement. Accordingly, the human was able to focus more on areas with high added values, which accelerate the development pace of the humanity.
Now, we are living in the era of the fourth industrial revolution, which can be described with the keywords such as ‘hyper-intelligence’ and ‘hyper-connectivity’ that are based on AI technology. According to ‘the Future of Jobs’ published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2018, There may be 75 million jobs disappeared by 2022 due to the division of labor between human and machine. However, the report also forecasted that there will be a total of 133 million new jobs thanks to a new division of labor among human, machine and algorithm. Also, McKinsey & Company’s research described one third of new jobs created in the last 25 years in the US as the jobs that didn’t exist before. According to the study, it is only 5% of human jobs, which can become fully automated. Among 60% of human work, about 30% can be automated with the existing technology.
In the end, it is for sure that some areas will be still operated by humans, which cannot be replaced by technologies. Like the other three industrial revolutions, the 4th industrial revolution will create more jobs with technological innovation. Through the innovation in the way of working, the development of humanity will further accelerate.
|Jobs that are more likely to be replaced by AI||Rank||Jobs that cannot be easily replaced by AI|
|Human resources managers|
|Compensation and benefits managers||
|Public relations managers|
|Computer support specialists||
|Market research analysts||
The area that companies adopt AI the most in is chatbot for intelligent virtual customer support. According to Gartner, 38% of companies responded that they are actively willing to introduce chatbot in customer service areas even though their technology is in early stages. Chatbot is regarded as one of the most promising technologies in the post-COVID era as it enables non-face-to-face work. Recently, an America’s IPSoft developed a digital virtual assistant called ‘Amelia’ to help customer management work and IT service desks. Unlike the previous chatbots centered around text or voice, the new chatbot applies the human-looking avatar and the improved natural language processing (NLP), which provides users an experience that is similar to the hiring process for ‘digital worker’.
Hyper-automation was selected as one of 10 strategic technologies by Gartner in 2020. Hyper-automation means the provision of more progressive and automated process by applying recent technologies including RPA, AI, Machine Learning and Process Mining compared to the previous methods of automation. In general, the RPA is regarded to replace human hands, the OCR for human eyes, chatbot for human mouth, machine learning and AI for human brain. If you want a certain process to be carried out in a way that humans usually do or want some technologies to eventually replace human work, you need to combine various technologies to establish processes rather than go for one technology. Currently, it is a trend that RPA solution providers mainly apply a variety of desktop automation technology and other recognition technology. For the automation of work process, you should not concern about what technologies to apply first, but develop automation processes and find appropriate technologies and solutions.
Intelligent Document Processing
While data are being digitized to be utilized for corporate work and process, the reality still carries more unstructured documents. To automate such manual work of processing for unstructured and undigitized documents, we can introduce a series of processes called ‘intelligent document processing’ by combining the advanced OCR and AI technologies to improve accuracy and deciding the processing methods through machine learning. The AI-based OCR helps handwriting recognition and data extraction from unstructured templates by installing self-learning functions based on the neural network (human-brain-like function). Therefore, the intelligent document processing can show lower error rates and high recognition rates.
According to the World Economic Forum, 71% of the total work hours is done by human in 2018. The rest of 29% will be completed by machine. However, those rates are expected to decrease down to 58% (by human) and increase up to 42% (by machine) by 2022. Although the current AI and automation technology is not yet at the level of full replacement for human labor, a lot more people will work by utilizing such technology as technologies further emerge. Those who well utilize such technology are expected to show better performance, and the gap between those people and those who can’t use technologies will deepen with a big difference of compensation.
Soon, there will be a time when human and AI-based robots have seamless collaboration. That suggests us that it is now time to think how we can utilize all available technologies for new business innovation and how human and machine mutually exist while human pay more attention to more creative work with high added values in the era of automation.
 The Future of Jobs Report 2018 – World Economic Forum
 A Future that works : Automation, Employment, and Productivity - McKinsey
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