Is artificial intelligence a substitute for humans?

When people talk about artificial intelligence today, there is probably consensus that it is one of the most important future technologies. Experts and thought leaders are less in agreement on what the use of artificial intelligence (AI) will actually bring. It is likely that it will cost jobs in the medium term. But AI applications relieve employees of annoying or routine tasks and thus give them time for other activities - ideally more time for their own customers. However, this assumes that companies use the saved time for this and not to cut jobs.

Companies are obliged to train workers to become skilled workers

Often the view into the future of artificial intelligence is directed towards robots and how they can be used in Industry 4.0 and replace humans. There is also a great opportunity in technology in industries that involve services and customer contact. In the insurance industry, for example, start-ups support large providers such as Allianz with their AI software. The application of the Berlin-based company Omnius, for example, reads damage reports, including handwritten ones, automatically and processes the information. The start-up advertises that it is giving time back to the clerks who save these steps. Companies should seize this opportunity and reinvest that time in their service.

There may be many people who do not like to talk to a representative or customer advisor, but prefer to fill out an online form, be guided through a smart program using video instructions and upload pictures and videos themselves. This is not only nice for those with an affinity for technology, but also important for employees who do not have time to make an appointment with an insurance agent or the bank between work and childcare. But there are also those who prefer to talk to someone who listens to them, clarifies open questions, and helps with closing. Service providers have to do justice to both.

What artificial intelligence does much better than humans is to collect and categorize large amounts of data. It can calculate different scenarios in a matter of seconds. And they can train themselves and recognize new connections in the data. Alone, without data and precise instructions, artificial intelligence is dumber than a healthy person can ever be. This can be seen, for example, in the ethical problems that technology can cause - if it is trained with racist or generally discriminatory characteristics, it does not question it and adopts the specifications completely uncritically.

What distinguishes people, on the other hand, is their ability to react empathically to the needs of other people, to distinguish and interpret sadness, frustration, joy and interest in the other person. Everything that is called interpersonal for good reasons. A big advantage in AI technologies for companies is that they see them as a complement to people and not as their substitutes.

Automation has always been good for taking the strain off people, be it hard physical work or activities that involve a lot of repetition. In the past, this often led to large waves of layoffs, which were later offset by newly created jobs. Even now, studies are predicting worrying numbers. Hundreds of thousands of jobs could become superfluous in German industry alone through the use of AI. At the same time, tens of thousands of new employees are needed who know how to use technology and robotics.

Firstly, however, it does not necessarily have to be two steps: In times when there is a shortage of skilled workers, companies themselves are also obliged to train workers to become skilled workers. Second, this is the wrong approach. Anyone who is already focusing on prophecies of doom about vacated positions overlooks which resources the technology releases and how these resources can be used.

The extent to which artificial intelligence will actually change the world of work will not only show at the technological level, but also in the sense of responsibility and the intelligence of employers. They should clearly acknowledge their responsibility to their employees.