Artificial intelligence will release humans to become more skilled at providing ‘soft services’, according to the MD of a firm already using it.

Phil Jones is the managing director at Manchester-based Brother UK, which provides hardware to businesses.

He says many of the benefits of AI are already happening – but we don’t shout about them enough.

“AI just means more software doing jobs that humans used to do, but people don’t always make the link,” he says.

“It has been talked about for over 50 years but is beginning to accelerate as a discussion point now, primarily because computational power has been consistently improving, as well as the amount of raw data available for the computers to crunch.

“AI is really human-like intelligence, so it’s things like where software algorithms are created to act more like humans.

“We’ve had a self-learning system in customer support for many years. Every time a customer asks for support it scans the email looking for specific words and patterns.

“It knows how we answer them and auto-composes a reply with all the links within the email for the customer, based on things we know have worked.

“So, half of all the emails coming into customer support we never see.”

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Using AI can give businesses deeper insights into many routine tasks, such as sales analysis, reporting, analysing management accounts, says Jones. 

“AI and software analyses bits of routine and financial work and does a deep dive on those insights - for me, unless you can get big insights out of Big Data it’s a waste of time.

At the moment humans are finding the concept of Big Data quite difficult – we know how to collect, warehouse and present data – but what we want is the insights from it. 

“So the practicalities of AI are where programmes can begin to look at those relationships and start doing stuff for you. 

“It’s getting people to see the relationship between the label 'AI' - which sounds like we're talking about things in 2080 when we’re living in space - and what it means for them now.”

Jones says that within the next ten years AI will become a much more significant topic within business.

“We must be constantly reviewing how these things may impact business. What we try and do at Brother is ask ‘how can we try it’ – it's about practical innovation for us.

“We’re not trying to have robots walking around the office trying to do anything clever.

“AI will have some displacement for humans as robots become more prevalent, but the jobs replaced will be offset somewhere with other jobs ; the difference being that those jobs will be more skilled than unskilled.

“We'll have to become more skilled providing all of the soft things – intuition, empathy, the ability to be more human – which hopefully AI will release us to do more of." 

 

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