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A vision of the future

‘Personal companions’ will be developed. They will connect and sync all your devices in a smart way, whether they are at home or in the office, and allow them to exchange data. The device will check your email or notifications and present the information that you need. When you go to the store, you can tell it what recipes you want to prepare, and it will generate a list of ingredients that you need to pick up. It will inform all the devices that you use of your purchases and schedule, allowing them to automatically adjust to what you’re doing.

Stoking the fire of fear

Back in 1999, these lines might have sounded like an omen from the future, but it was an entirely accurate prediction made by Bill Gates in his book “Business @ the Speed of Thought”. It was just two years after a mere few of us had seen or held the revolutionary mobile phone Nokia 3110 that was capable of sending 160 alphanumeric characters to our (few) awesome mates with a mobile phone. It was hard even to imagine that one day we would call out “Siri” on a pocket device to sort our messages for us.

Fast forward to 2013, and digital assistants had made it into our homes, and an ‘Orwell-like tension’ was building up with Edward Snowden revealing NSA surveillance programs – privacy is dead, robots are taking over, and we live in an inevitable apocalypse.

We could go deeper down the rabbit hole and discuss all the possible scenarios of how the digi-assistant-takeover will play out, but instead, I will shed light on the positive picture where the digital assistant is helping us, humans, to take back our lives and revolutionise our future.

Human-centric control

Fear of losing jobs to robots has been the talk of the town for some time– yes, technology will eliminate jobs, and has always done so. In fact, it is predicted to eliminate 1.8 million jobs by 2020, while creating 2.3 million in return.

We have moved away from rigged typing machines to auto-correct assistants embedded in your browser. From abacus boards to pocket-sized automated calculators from predictions to live data accuracy. Humans have created and introduced technology to assist and enhance our lives.

The use of digital assistants has helped us to become more accurate in our jobs with eliminating simple human errors, provided quick help and guidance for mundane tasks, provided self-service and automated tasks that are otherwise time consuming. With the introduction of technology, we have been able to let innovation work in our favour.

Defeating Human Errors

Humans make errors. Period. These errors are rarely ever caused by foul play, but nevertheless they can cost millions to the industry affected. Simple mistakes such as a typing error caused a loss of nearly $340,000 in one day for the Mizuho Securities Co. when attempting to sell its shares on the Tokyo stock market. While the shares should have been traded for 610,000 yen a piece, they were accidentally put to market for 1 yen a piece in the amount of 610,000 total shares to be sold. Who would have wanted to be on the receiving end of that bill?

Every year millions of dollars are lost due to mistakes caused by repetitive data entry, misinterpretation or misunderstanding of company policies that can lead to cyber risk. According to AGCS, the unfortunate human error is the third top cause of liability loss (19%) globally!

Most of these cases can be massively reduced or discarded completely by implementing digital assistants as a tool for the workforce. Scan and analyse documents, pick up errors and mistakes, lodge and report claims and tickets, gather and examine insights and trends on the fly, and report all that back to the human colleague for further handling. The list of opportunities is endless. And while we are not able to take the human out of our nature, we can give back the time and efficiency, that was once lost.

The power of combined intelligence - human and artificial

Digital assistants are not replacing humans - technology cannot substitute the human factor that is deeply rooted in our existence and our nature as beings. The human element is a combination of our culture, language and individual experience; common sense, intuition and empathy– which all drive most of our daily decisions.  

While we can teach machines to learn specific repetitive tasks, understand the context of questions, and reply with some degree of sentiment, we are not yet able to show them how to evaluate situations with complete empathy and common sense. In the combination of the two intelligences though, we can rapidly increase our productivity through automation.

In 1999 the idea of a digital assistant might have set a scene for a great Sci-Fi horror, but today we as humans have adopted many of their perks to boost our lives, and we will continue to do so as time goes on. The use of digital assistants is not anymore a dream of innovation but a daily necessity and it won’t only be for the benefit of companies implementing the technology, but each and everyone using it.

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