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Next Step For Artificial Intelligence: The Autonomous Enterprise

We are still in the early days of artificial intelligence and machine learning transforming many aspects of our world, including how work gets done. For those of you who can remember how work got done before computers, the internet, and mobile, you have a sense of just how transformational new technologies can be.

The previous wave of transformational technologies led to organizations that were inherently more connected than before. Information and decisions flowed much faster as a result.


The current wave will lead to what I’ve started to call the autonomous enterprise: an organization where many decisions are made with the help of machine learning. And, once again, before long we won’t be able to imagine doing work any other way.

In a very short time, machine learning has become much easier, and much more cost-effective, to put to work. Business applications now come with built-in and pretrained machine learning models that improve over time. Chatbots that conduct intelligent, albeit narrow, conversations aren’t a science project anymore. And now there’s the promise of using machine learning to accelerate the building and training of, yes, machine learning models.

When something becomes much easier and less expensive to put to work, more of it is used. And that’s begun in earnest.

Look Beyond the Flashy

Our interest will always gravitate to the big, flashy projects, but we need to look beyond those. The true potential of machine learning is in improving the day-in, day-out decisions every business makes.

Such decisions are everywhere in every organization. What price should I offer this customer? What is the best way to resolve this customer satisfaction issue? How many of a given component should I order, and when? Who is the best candidate for this role? How likely is this employee to leave us? What is the probability that this warranty claim is fraudulent? When should I service this factory machine?

Improved decision-making in response to any one of these modest questions may not make a serious impact. But used pervasively throughout an organization, many hundreds or thousands of modest impacts have a huge impact.

How will the nature of work change as a result?

The decisions most of us make at work all day long are based on past experiences—for example, I’ve seen this before and know what to do now. It is precisely those types of decision that will be most amenable to machine learning.

Sometimes we’re asked to analyze data, looking for patterns. Machine learning can do that analysis at a level that most humans find difficult—especially if you weren’t paying attention in your statistics class.

If it’s a big decision, or if we’re in new territory, we tend to seek the counsel of others, adding their expertise to ours. Those situations won’t go away, but it’ll be a lot easier to bring modern decision science to the table.

Nobody likes to make bad decisions. But the ones that really hurt are the decisions we didn’t make. Something started to go wrong, the evidence was there—we just missed it because, well, we’re human.

So how do we describe the autonomous enterprise?

Simple: It does a better job at everyday decision-making. Faster decisions. Higher-quality decisions. And, ultimately, more-confident decisions. Just like the internet and mobile made our organizations radically better at connecting and communicating.

The Future of Work Is Autonomous 

There are those among us who express concern that new technologies such as AI and machine learning will make most of our current workforce obsolete.

History shows otherwise. The advent of antibiotics and vaccines didn’t put doctors out of work; it made our lives better. Spreadsheets didn’t put accountants out of work; it helped them do more work in less time.

When we invent better tools, the nature of work—and our lives—usually changes for the better.

The same will be true as our organizations start using machine learning wherever human decisions are made, making our organizations more autonomous and vastly better at decision-making in the process.

Before long, autonomous enterprises will be the norm.

Source: forbes

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