The arrival of the artificial employee

The inception of the artificial employee is on the horizon and workplace diversity will soon include artificial intelligence.

The rise of AI in all areas of life is inevitable and it is set to reshape the way we think about consciousness and our personal identity. In our current economic climate it is no longer a futuristic dream where workplaces include artificial intelligence (AI) as part of their workforce. From The Matrix to Black Mirror, we have seen freakishly-smart, artificial intelligent robots bleed into popular media for the last two decades. While terrifying, these films have captivated and inspired our collective consciousness impacting the way we see a future that is influenced by AI.

In a world where we can barely imagine what our lives will look like 5 years time, it is useless to try to predict how exactly robots are going to change the way we live. But taking into account our fascination with technology, it is fair to assume AI is here to create change. With the support and investment of large companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple, Uber and Microsoft who are committed to the development of AI, the sci-fi future we always saw in films is much closer than we once predicted.

As a creative, an AI enthusiast and a product designer at Solstice, I have had the opportunity to work with emerging technologies across various sectors. Over the last couple of years I have witnessed the exciting, and sometimes scary, landscape of technology change and I believe the realities of AI will not simply impact the products that we build but our entire existence. Living and working with AI in the future will compel us to reassess our ethics as a society as well as our personal morals and sense of self.

Take a moment now and imagine walking into your office building for a meeting and as you enter the foyer you are greeted by an AI robot, that behaves like a human.
This is already part of my everyday routine and this is the future. The simple fact that we will interacting with the appearance of consciousness in things that are clearly not biological will be enough for us to (at least unconsciously) revise what we think consciousness is.

So what is AI?

AI, also known as Artificial intelligence, is a form of computer science that falls under the discipline of robotics. AI is an automated process that imitates the human learning process in the brain by creating what are called artificial neural networks.
For example, when teaching AI new skills such as visual recognition, it is provided with an image and then tasked with finding images with the same subject matter. It trawls through vast numbers of images to find other photos that share similarities. Each correct answer reinforces the neural pathways, so just as humans do, it learns from experience and positive reinforcement. As the software algorithm begins to learn and evolve, its accuracy increases. We see this type of AI in government agencies, cyber security, search engines and much more, as it can effectively filter through large amounts of data.

While a future with humanistic AI robots may not be as inconceivable anymore, it is important to acknowledge that AI and humans are very different. Firstly, the decision making processes of humans in comparison to AI is significantly different.
While humans rely heavily on intuition, emotion and instinct, AI can be programmed to rapidly filter through enormous numbers of possibilities to calculate the most accurate answer. While the computational data-crunching can automate many otherwise-mundane tasks, the processing power is substantial. This can become problematic in the advancement of AI and historically has reduced AI to specialize in one function.

How will this impact our lives?

While we will continue to see media perpetuating the image of sophisticated AI minds, humans won’t be dismissed as evolutionary landfill just yet. Until we can better understand our own brains, the combination of an the emotionally intelligent robot is still a very distant possibility.
We can find comfort in knowing a robot won’t be replacing our colleagues in the immediate future though AI has been shifting into various industries since the 90’s. From agriculture to vehicles, finance, advertising, science and medical technology; AI is constantly advancing and becoming more sophisticated. Mover over, with each improvement, we are finding people to be more open to it and more dependant upon it.

Over the last two years we have seen drastic growth in the evolution of artificial intelligence. Today we have virtual assistants, smart vehicles, energy-efficient devices, automated supply chains and microchips that mirror the neural structure of the brain. Personalized digital entertainment experiences now provide movie or music recommendations and automated customer support services are among many AI services that we increasingly take for granted. As practical as neural networks might be for efficiency, automation, data interpretation and pattern recognition, they lack long term memory.

Neuroscience has informed ongoing research that explores the relationship between human thinking, artificial intelligence and society. Having spent extensive time working within brain injury I have gained insight into the way our brains handle acute trauma and learning. I believe it is essential to understand human cognition in order to drive forward AI advancement — and vice versa.

Where does AI fail us?

AI succeeds best when being tasked with finding black and white answers. Before we can program AI to understand how to make the correct decision for us we need to understand human consciousness. We have to ask questions about what drives people’s decisions making process, what impact do their decisions have upon others, the economy, the environment and policy. To take it further, the lack of empathy in AI will mean humans will always be better at making complex decisions as they can better account for unforeseen variables.

Beyond the computational power of AI that is infinitely beneficial to society, the potential of a future in which we will interact with AI personalities regularly is a rather exciting pondering. It is particularly thrilling to consider the diversity of viewpoints that this implies. AI, by nature, will have opinions, whether it was developed this was consciously or unconsciously. Ultimately, AI answers questions that we believe are correct however bias can cause answers to be varying across different groups of people.

Looking through the lense of the workplace, diversity is a theme we see more and more commonly. In the future we can expect diversity to account for Al too. Furthermore, the evolution of our workforce will cause review of major societal infrastructure, such as tax collection procedures.
We can expect that AI will change the workforce; but it won’t just be another cog in the machine. AI is already being used in law and medicine, not only to read and assess documents but to make recommendations. While advances in robotics are allowing doctors to perform surgeries remotely. Imminently, AI may even be able to perform simple surgeries.

So while the pervading fear that technology will innovate entire careers out of existence still remains; we can seek reprieve in knowing humans are never going to entirely design themselves out of the picture. Those who are open to learning and who are adaptable will remain in high demand and it is exciting to think of the dynamic workforce we will be among. I believe the biggest differentiator for those who intend to remain employed in the future, will be those who poses the willingness to be agile within the roles they take.

Originally published at on July 29, 2019.

Product Design Expert, Writer and Creative. I build products & tell stories. Work in The Startup, Bootcamp & UX Collective.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store