By Pierce Ashworth
As a student at a STEM-obsessed university, I find that artificial intelligence is all the buzz nowadays. From shopping, to cars, to amenities within the home, artificial intelligence is revolutionizing the way we interact with our world and think about the future.
Although exciting, I find this somewhat unnerving: According to a survey by ARM, 71% of people fear losing an aspect of humankind’s control or authenticity to AI as it further pervades society.
However, while interning at Oracle, I’ve reevaluated some of my preconceptions about AI as it relates to the enterprise domain. The data associated with AI, because many of its origins (email, calendar, role-based access) are owned by the organizations we work for, is of a separate nature. This creates a more frictionless context in which AI can revolutionize business processes.
According to McKinsey, tech giants like Google and Baidu spent between $20 billion and $30 billion on AI in 2016—it’s unassailably becoming a priority. In the domain of business, Oracle is incorporating enterprise AI into its apps, its platform, and its infrastructure offerings, so business users can apply AI out of the box. So I spoke with Oracle user experience experts to explore AI’s function in the enterprise and how that influences our perception of enterprise AI.
Rather than eroding the humanity within our occupations, it seems AI may actually allow us to have more meaningful, inspiring work lives. Here are a few ways that AI will make your job more human-centric than ever before, according to those Oracle experts.
1. AI Will Break Down Barriers
As the world becomes more and more globalized, it will be increasingly necessary for businesses to transcend geographic and cultural barriers. The inability to do so confines an enterprise’s growth potential as lucrative prospects and markets remain inaccessible—but it also limits human capital. AI can do things like “translate your coworker in China’s native language into English for you on the fly,” says Tawny Le, usability engineer for Oracle's emerging technologies team.
Users will be able to collaborate like never before, Le says, allowing projects to be undertaken by the best possible candidates, regardless of language or location. Because we’re a social species, I would attest that the expansion of our ability to work together to achieve a common goal is a humanistic development that will diminish fragmentation in enterprise.
2. AI Will Reduce Dull, Monotonous Tasks
“Nothing is so stifling as symmetry,” says Victor Hugo in Les Misérables. Doing the same thing over and over again, especially when it requires more effort than thought, makes work mundane and uninspiring. Business processes such as payroll, data entry, and audits “are things that an intelligent system can do very efficiently, very well, and very fast,” says Thao Nguyen, director of research and design for Oracle’s emerging technologies team.
The automation of such tasks allows their typical practitioners to play a more meaningful, human role in the enterprise because the time previously allotted for such commodities is now invested in projects that are “less repetitive and more thought-provoking,” adds Nguyen. Enthusiasm will no longer be dulled by monotony, cultivating an inspired workforce of stimulated minds being put to good use.
3. AI Will Proliferate Thoughtful Work
Not only will the adoption of AI eradicate mundanity in the enterprise, but it will allow users to do more of the work that makes them unique and valuable to their organizations. Less time wasted on numbing tasks means more time for fulfilling work that requires a human touch: salespeople can build relationships with customers, HR can sculpt empowering culture, and, with AI’s data analysis capacity, line-of-business managers can focus on educated strategy decisions rather than maintenance.
“The entire goal of the Oracle applications user experience team is to put the user at the center and create an experience that makes things easier, more productive, and more efficient,” says Kathy Miedema, senior market research analyst for the team. As human capital becomes the key differentiator between organizations, the automation of less thought-intensive tasks will emphasize human-centric processes. It would seem that humankind isn’t falling into a vestigial role in business—we will soon become more important than ever before.
Since the beginning of time, our species has adapted to push the limits of possibility—and I’m of the opinion that advancements in efficiency permit this progression. Once we developed enough technology to allow us time after providing for our basic needs, humankind starting doing things like making art and searching for understanding, thus expanding its horizons and building its collective cultural identity.
This building never stops.
Just as hunting became shopping, written letters have become social media posts and missives. As business processes modernize they give more and take less, leaving room for us to further develop and appreciate the human condition. AI’s transformative capabilities will endow businesses with more time and better information, allowing them to solve the world’s toughest problems—and creating some that don’t yet exist. AI will further push the limits of what is conceivable as the enterprise evolves, advancing the most integral and robust trend humanity has ever known—progress.
Pierce Ashworth is a summer marketing intern at Oracle and a junior at Stanford University.