Takeaways from MIT’s annual AI and the Future of Work Congress


On Thursday, I took a trip up to Cambridge to participate in MIT’s second annual “AI and the Future of Work conference.” I shared the stage with Erik Brynjolfsson, a Director with MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy; Sophie Vandebroek, a VP of Emerging Technology Partnerships for IBM; and Gabi Zijderveld, Head of Product Strategy at Affectiva.

The four of us took a deeper dive beyond standalone Artificial Intelligence solutions. We looked at the impact of A.I.-enabled organizations. As A.I. is increasingly embedded throughout new business strategies, organizational structures and jobs are emerging while others are disappearing. This is leading to profound shifts in business models.

We’re starting to see which companies are paving the road through A.I. innovation and how they’re using these solutions to increase their competitiveness. The best part is there is no “one size fits all” model. It’s up to each company to create and implement the technologies accordingly. Are you looking to grow your client base? Create synergies? Put together a premier roster of talent?

One great example we’re seeing is in the financial services industry. Leading players are improving their operational efficiency levels by implementing robo-advisor solutions. With a product that services everyone from institutional-grade investors down to the average retail investor, these companies are able to scale and grow their client base exponentially without disrupting their existing workforce.

Other industries are using the underlying technology to create physical products. For instance, self-driving vehicles. Regardless of where you stand on the timeline of their widespread adoption, it’s hard to argue them existing in some capacity in our lifetimes. The boardrooms that are actively thinking about the potential threats and opportunities will come out on top. This isn’t limited to only car manufacturers and the OEM’s within their supply chains. Self-driving vehicles will impact delivery and transportation services, e-commerce operations and even entire cities as they plan for traffic and congestion changes.

Leveraging A.I. for competitive advantages is also essential to the future of your workforce. Organizations with strong A.I. solutions are viewed as more attractive companies to work for in the eyes of sought-after employees. Simply put, best-in-class workers want to be part of innovative organizations. As more labor-intensive industries like manufacturing become digitized, they’re creating a whole new set of jobs to be filled. Right now is the ideal opportunity for companies in these types of industries to start to make a name for themselves in hiring and boasting a best-in-class talent pool.

My overall advice is to never build something you wouldn’t want used on yourself; be ethical and understand your audience. By curating a mixed team you’re able to hold each other accountable to this as well as regulatory concerns such as breaking algorithm patents or misusing customer data. Remember, you don’t need every bit of customer data and the more you ask for, the more the customer will be put off. Just because you can do something and it’s legal doesn’t mean it is socially and ethically responsible.

Whether a company is looking to become more efficient, or seeking to create a new product, odds are there will be some level of A.I. involved. These technology solutions are not static either, and that is what I love most about them -- continually introducing new solutions and methods for application. Because of all this, A.I. truly levels the playing field for smaller and mid-market companies to compete with larger enterprises. In many ways this makes it somewhat of a Wild West with first mover advantages.







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