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Relax, Judgement Day is Not Coming

Rosie, the robotic maid, from The Jetsons is virtually perfect. She’s feisty, funny, efficient and above all, empathetic.

As chatbots and digital assistants continue to naturalize the workplace, Rosie becomes the standard. The challenge, with this vision, is incorporating empathy into our future machine colleagues.

While machines can be taught many things, algorithms cannot yet enable Siri or Alexa to sense anger, react to sarcasm, or enjoy a pun.

Developers are currently designing and integrating a new facet of understanding to chatbots. Sentiment Analysis will allow digital assistants to recognize emotion, react, and understand you as well as your best friend. It will give chatbots the opportunity to advance beyond their persona and develop a personality.

On the other hand, humans have an inherent bias towards AI, inculcated by Hollywood movies like Terminator, Her or Ex Machina.

While speaking on a Special Edition Series of Coffee Break with Game Changers, Piyush Chandra, Senior Director for Product Management at Innovation Center Network, SAP pointed out that human skills are being augmented by sophisticated technology.

“AI is helping humans become extraordinary. It’s up to us how we utilize it,” as Chandra explained. It is important to build trust, transparency, and social bonding among humans and their AI colleagues as the latter prepare to join the workplace.

“It makes our jobs as developers harder, but not impossible,” he says, on the need to normalize this new equation.

Having a “machine colleague” could become the norm before the end of the decade, giving rise to the question – will machines take over your job?

The answer is no. Though they will make certain jobs obsolete, they will create millions of new high-skilled jobs. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in its biennial update1 of employment projections said in 2012 that jobs in the IT sector will increase up to 22% by 2020.

The report adds that some fields could fare better than others. Security experts, cloud capacity managers, data architects, and analytics experts among others are expected to flourish.

Chatbots will improve other areas of function, Chandra pointed out, including eliminating biases in the hiring process and screening applicants. Jobs postings with words like “guru” or “ninja” are more likely to keep women from applying due to the prevalent gender biases associated with these terms.

The task of hiring high-skilled individuals is particularly challenging as candidates increasingly choose to freelance or work part-time. For example, millennials are project driven rather than employer focused. In such cases, recruitment can become more problematic for employers looking for long-term commitments.

The answer lies in diversity, according to Chandra. Diversity among the developers building AI is as essential as the diversity of data. The mantra at SAP is simple – It takes quality data to generate a quality outcome.

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