Mr. Boos, your business is automation with the help of artificial intelligence. How do you reassure your employees that they’ll still have a job five years down the road?
We don’t have to do that at all. Particularly those companies that deal with artificial intelligence are constantly asking themselves how to make things as pleasant as possible for their employees. We are dependent on our employees because we know exactly what the limits of artificial intelligence are.
Artificial intelligence completely fails when it comes to developing new ideas. That’s something only we humans can do. Unfortunately not on demand, either. You can’t tell your employees: Monday, 8:30 a.m., please deliver an idea! We can only create an environment where people feel comfortable—and then hope that they’ll do what they remain unbeatable at.
What exactly would that be?
I divide it into two large fields: creativity and social interaction. Being creative means that you sometimes swim against the current, that you keep tinkering until something works, and that you take risks so that you can claim the glory as a pioneer when you succeed. No AI in the world can do that. Without people, there’s just no innovation. In social terms, machines do even worse. Nobody wants to be waited on by an emotionless robot in a restaurant.
Quite a few researchers have been working on fairly empathic machines for a while now.
Of course I can program a bit of friendliness into a machine, but that’s just a simulation. Machines are nothing like actual people. That’s something anyone who has ever had to call an automated hotline notices. Machines have different strengths.
Better at linear, repetitive tasks, they say.
I think that’s true, by and large. In very simplified terms, I’d say everything that’s difficult for people is easy for machines. And vice versa.
Which results in the famous thesis that artificial intelligence will keep the boring tasks at bay in the future—so that we’ll finally be able to take on the exciting and creative things in our work.
That’s the great hope, and I think we’ll be able to fulfill that for the most part. Take IT for instance: there are many complicated processes and that’s why administrators are inundated with user queries. Their actual job should be to keep the systems as secure and stable as possible. This for instance is where our AI comes into play, taking on routine tasks and freeing up time for administrators to do their real jobs.
With the result that there will soon only be five administrators in a company instead of twenty.
This is exactly what has almost never happened for us. Only one of our clients cut jobs. All the others improved their service or gained and served more customers with the same team. Ask an IT admin how much fun it is to spend hours resetting passwords every day. That happens all the time on a daily basis. And each system has a different procedure for it. This sort of task certainly doesn’t need a very well trained and consequently expensive IT expert. AI can already do this better, faster and cheaper, making it more efficient overall. And the administrator is finally liberated from this tiresome task.
Yet people are still fearful about their jobs.
Let’s not beat around the bush: many jobs will die out in the future. I would say up to 80 percent. Yet at the same time new jobs will be created—it’s an enormous opportunity.
It’s news like this that makes even more people worry.
Because they don’t see the opportunities. Banking, for instance, is an industry that will be swept away by disruption in the coming years. An unbelievable number of people are busy handling internal processes. Deadly boring, always similar tasks—and therefore ideally suited for AI. Machines will be taking over more and more processes here. If the banks are clever, they’ll use the resources that have been freed up for customer service—something they’ve been neglecting for many, many years.
What about those who really enjoy in-house controlling?
They make the best experts to manage the transition to automation. They know the processes blindfolded and can therefore perfectly adjust, train and continue developing the AI. Instead of just doing monotonous tasks, they’ll finally become creative and can use their knowledge to improve things. By the way, this isn’t some new process. When films with soundtracks replaced silent films, a number of organists, who had previously played live music to accompany the films in cinemas, were suddenly out of work. They then invented film music—and became pioneers in this new field.