How AI is changing Kiwis’ lives

A big concern among New Zealanders is the fear of mass unemployment as a result of advances in AI. Indeed, the machines are coming for our jobs — but should we be embracing the opportunities offered by AI? We want technology to make our lives better, after all.

Clearing up the AI anxiety

What we define as AI technology is very much in flux. Before they were available to the mass market, the idea of Siri or Google Maps would be touted as cutting-edge AI. But now they’re just Siri and Google Maps. A technology is only referred to as artificial intelligence until we get comfortable with it, which is why the term is often hard to pin down.

The key to understanding AI’s modern application — and future potential — is to define the difference between what is considered a “weak AI” and a “strong AI”.

Weak (or Narrow) AI

Strong (or General) AI

All current and proposed applications of AI are considered ‘narrow’. So even though the technology’s future is often imagined to look like something out of The Terminator or I, Robot — that’s far fetched even for a strong AI.

What’s happening to our jobs?

A report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) identified that around 46% of jobs in New Zealand will be automated within the next decade. The hardest hit? People who are labourers, machine operators, or in administrative roles.

It seems a no-brainer that businesses would choose to adopt AI into their processes. The technology provides a vast new toolset for organisations to gain significant competitive advantage through lowering labour costs, improving production efficiency, and reducing human error.

A recent survey by AI Forum reports that the top five ways New Zealand organisations will use AI are to:

  1. Make sense of vast amounts of data.
  2. Automate tedious or dangerous work.
  3. Support decision making with speed and accuracy.
  4. Reduce business costs by automation.
  5. Optimise business processes.

New Zealand’s agriculture industry is now reaping the benefits of AI. Systems that can accurately count an entire orchard are already deployed in the field. They also have the capability to make precise predictions about future crops — preventing human error and saving tens of millions of dollars in wastage.

Our irreplaceable skill set

Machines struggle in the creative, social, and emotional intelligence spaces — where humans naturally excel. Consider our agriculture industry example — cost savings and excess labour can be redistributed to areas of the business that complement a human skill set. This could be fostering supply chain relations, making important strategic decisions that require outside-the-box thinking, or marketing a product in creative ways.

Redistributing roles

As AI continues to mature, upskilling staff becomes increasingly important. It’s one of the key ways organisations can reduce redundancies and foster workplace satisfaction.

Creating new roles

Firstly, building and maintaining AI technology requires a human touch. Paul Daugherty, author of Human + Machine: Reimagining Work in the Age of AI suggests that three varieties of role will emerge as AI becomes further integrated into businesses:

Trainers

Explainers

Sustainers

New jobs and industries also emerge for those who use the technology. Consider the internet explosion over the past 25 years. Web development, e-commerce, digital marketing, online media and many other multi-billion dollar industries have sprung up, and created just as many new jobs in the process.

It’s exciting to see how evolving technology — in spaces like artificial intelligence and machine learning — will continue to impact our lives and occupations.

It’s inevitable, so let’s embrace it

New Zealand is built on Kiwi ingenuity and a good-natured, can-do attitude. So it’s fair to say we’re well positioned to make the most of AI taking on the heavy-lifting. It’ll let us be free to focus on what we’re uniquely good at — doing as little as humanly possible.

Originally published at www.springload.co.nz.

Digital Marketing Specialist at Springload | Tune selector and collector