As the coronavirus has swept across the globe, the swathes of redundancies that have followed in its wake have relegated the "robots are taking our jobs" narrative into the background. It was a narrative with a somewhat mixed logic at the best of times. For instance, research from the London School of Economics (LSE) found that the introduction of industrial robots has actually increased wages for employees while also increasing the number of job opportunities for highly skilled people. The researchers conducted a comprehensive analysis of the economic impact of industrial robots over 17 countries between 1993 and 2007 across 14 different industries. The period of analysis corresponded with a huge rise in the use of industrial robots, with the price of such machinery also falling by approximately 80%.
Using data collected in a global survey during 2019, the report analysed a sample of 151 fintechs and incumbents across 33 countries to paint a rich picture of how artificial technology is being developed and deployed within the financial services sector. While 77% of respondents noted that they expect AI to become an essential business driver across the financial services industry in the near term, the report found that the way incumbents and fintechs are leveraging AI technologies differ in a number of ways. A higher share of fintechs tend to be creating AI-based products and services, employing autonomous decision-making systems, and relying on cloud-based systems. Whereas incumbents appear to focus on "harnessing AI to improve existing products. This might explain why AI appears to have a higher positive impact on fintechs' profitability."
Artifical Intelligence is a divisive topic, with both advocates and skeptics dominating the headlines. Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have warned about AI's destructive potential, while others have more grounded concerns relating to automation and jobs. Hysteria and hyperbole tend to surround anything new, but CEOs and organizational leaders across industries have the opportunity to take a levelheaded approach to AI and its potential.
Automation is good for business. It means delegating manual, mundane administrative tasks that suck up valuable hours to software or machines, freeing up time for human employees to focus on more complex, challenging, and creative work. Its benefits are twofold–better working conditions and employee engagement, as well as improving the bottom line by cutting costs. Think of it as the modern-day equivalent of the cotton gin. Before the invention of the cotton gin, people had to separate the cotton from their seeds by hand manually.
The reality will lie between these two extremes. Based on research gathered from surveying Asian business leaders and human resources and AI professionals, this report argues that AI's future will cleave much more closely to the positive outcome. Moreover, this future appears to be approaching quickly: advances in deep learning and the rapid expansion of process automation in such diverse sectors as manufacturing, transportation, and financial services mean that AI's impact is growing exponentially with each passing year. Decision makers in all organizations must now begin to understand how AI will alter their own operational processes and those of suppliers, partners, and customers. Asia's business landscape is poised not only to benefit greatly from AI's rise, but also to define it.