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Digital Assistants/Artificial Intelligence - future competitors or colleagues?

Digital Assistants/Artificial Intelligence - future competitors or colleagues?

By Sofie Koark, Training Officer, EUMA Sweden


The digital development moves forward with full speed ahead, and administrative professions are one of many that reportedly are threatened in the future when tasks will be automated and digitized. More and more digital assistants like Apple's Siri, Google’s Google Now, Microsoft's Cortana and Facebook’s M enter the market. The digital assistants will of course be much brighter and smarter in time, and it gives rise to new types of jobs when trying to create their characters and customize their communication https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/04/07/why-poets-are-flocking-to-silicon-valley/?postshare=8151461034906073&tid=ss_tw .

How should we, as Executive Assistants, relate to this potential threat? A while ago, I had the privilege to listen to, and discuss with, a researcher in Artificial Intelligence (AI) from Future of Humanity Institute, University of Oxford, where they conduct exciting research https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/ . His view is that if you can’t, in a simple, short and concrete way, describe exactly what you do ("the elevator pitch"), you have a more complex job which is more difficult to automate. I gave him my best suggestions to briefly explain what I do, but he didn’t think it was specific enough to easily replace, which of course is positive.

Routine tasks are the easiest to digitize/automate. What is difficult for AI to "learn" is social interaction, relationships, creativity, critical thinking about what is reasonable or not, and strategic thinking. AI can easily learn data, but fails to understand the meaning. Common sense, values, understanding social codes and to stay within the law, are challenges. Making wrong assumptions is easy. AI often reinforces existing prejudices when they process data and make analyzes. It can be difficult to really trust your digital assistant/AI, that it will make the right decision, treat people in a good way. They have no EQ. They didn’t grow up with social imprinting and upbringing, which means that they are not "programmed" in the same way as humans. They lack human experience, emotions to base decisions and behavior on. It is simply not so easy to copy human behavior.

The more we focus our roles on creativity, social interaction, relationships, integrity, communication, complex projects and strategic thinking, the harder it will be to replace us. We need to think more about how we brand ourselves and what skills we should develop in order to differentiate ourselves. As Executive Assistant is in close cooperation with CEOs, Management teams, clients and coworkers, social skills and the ability to act based on complexity is crucial, and not something that is easily copied by digital assistants/AI.

I'm not going to be particularly concerned about losing my job, and I follow the development with great interest and fascination. I welcome digital assistants/AI as my future colleague that frees me up from more routine tasks (appointments, numbers, reminders, documents) and helps me to focus on other, more complex and social areas. Areas which I enjoy the most. To meet the competition, one must simply make oneself irreplaceable.

Original text in Swedish from blog post:  http://www.foretagsuniversitetet.se/Bloggar/Executive-Assistants/Virtuella-assistenter-AI-framtida-konkurrenter-eller-kollegor