The future of work is increasingly beginning to look like a place where machines will totally displace the need for human beings in the business environment, maybe even on the home front. Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the biggest boons and successes of the planet, yet it is on its way to running the world without any involvement of humans.

We are thus in a position where we have to create a balance between machines and human beings such that people gain through the intervention of machines.

New wonder-child of the world

Today, we have computers that are more efficient and accurate than human beings in organizing, computing, planning and directing, we have self-propelled vehicles, smart-phones, robotic surgery, self-controlled military weapons, machines that look after babies and do the housework, that shop and pay on our behalf. AI is the new wonder-child of the world and it will become more and more a necessary part of our lives- professionally and personally. But it is also a major threat to jobs being done by people.

Research says that over 2/5ths of jobs will be taken over by machines over the next two decades. This starts with simple jobs that require routine or repetitive work or pattern recognition, data gathering and distillation, and computational algorithms, then goes onto jobs like clerical and admin support, travel, production, transportation, logistics, distribution and finally may well take over management and technical positions too.

We have seen the how stock trading, once the domain of people has been quite effectively taken over by highly advanced computers working with trading algorithms, which can complete thousands of transactions in seconds. It no longer depends on the financial expertise of the trader alone.

Machines and high-level algorithms

As an extension to this, it is believed that machines and high-level algorithms will also be more effective in HR – in fact studies have shown that predictive analytics and computing algorithms are more effective than human beings in recruiting the right candidate, in analyzing potential job turnover, in evaluating current and future work performance. In this scenario, it becomes necessary for organizations to move to a more automated work environment if they are to enhance productivity, efficiency and profits.

But rather than think in terms of introducing machines at the cost of people, organizations need to look at options of collaboration between the two so that each does what it is best at. Work needs to be first broken down into its components. Then parts which can be completed more efficiently by machines can be automated or outsourced to companies that provide that particular service while areas where people add more value can remain their responsibility. For example, the data analyst uses machines to scan through and analyse voluminous data in a matter of minutes (which would have taken months of human effort) and then builds his onward strategy, himself or with assistance from his team.

Successfully breaking down the job and then optimally distributing the components between automation and human skills involves understanding the capability and the potential contribution of each. Leaders and managers need to analyse, plan and adopt this way of going forward if they are to maintain their supremacy in the future of work.