OPINION | The rise of the autonomous revolution

Chris Chelliah, Group Vice President and Chief Architect, Core Technology and Cloud, Oracle Asia Pacific

By Chris Chelliah, Group Vice President and Chief Architect, Core Technology and Cloud, Oracle Asia Pacific

Anxiety has been named the modern plague of our time, with much of the ‘angst’ driven by the impact of modern technology – and with the dramatic rise in the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation in business, it feels like this condition has spread to the workplace.  Certainly, the arrival of any new technology that promises to change the way we do things has always created tension in society; think of the introduction of machines during the Industrial Revolution. So how concerned should we, in fact, be about this new development?

Perhaps, if history is anything to go by, less so than we currently are. While new technologies seemed at first to render the traditional workforce obsolete, new jobs and new industry segments were created in the long run. Indeed, productivity-raising technologies – like AI and automation – actually transforms the original job scope of traditional jobs, up-leveling and creating new forms of employment.

The autonomous revolution

Today, we see artificial intelligence, combined with machine learning, automation technologies and massive compute power, leading the way towards the Autonomous Revolution. This sees machines for the first time, increasingly capable of accomplishing activities that were once considered beyond their capabilities, such as making judgments calls, sensing emotion or even driving.

In effect, autonomous is the next level of automation, in that automated solutions still continually need users to intervene and dictate their operations – which itself is labor-intensive. True autonomous solutions can, once powered on, fully operate on their own to make decisions that are not only the most efficient for the user but because of the use of AI, might even suggest a better outcome than humans alone might come up with.

Think of a self-driving car. You key in the destination and allow the car to guide you across the best routes, navigate traffic, get you to your destination, and maneuver a difficult parking – all in time for your next meeting. The car eliminates the need to drive, or even learn driving as a skill, plus the risks associated with human driving errors.

The Philippines and the Autonomous Revolution

So how might the autonomous era impact the Philippines? The country is already known as a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) market, with this sector being a major employer and key source of income for the nation. 

However, recently job openings for fresh graduates in the industry have shrunk, with the rise of automation seen as one of the contributing factors. A further estimated 43,000 jobs are also expected to be lost from 2016 to 2022 due to artificial intelligence. 

Not all is lost though. Similar to how the Industrial Revolution brought about the creation of new jobs, the Autonomous Revolution too requires a new breed of employees. Employers and government officials need to rethink their employee engagement approach – providing employees with the necessary avenues to upskill.

The autonomous enterprise, here to help, not replace

It is also key to note that the technology itself might help the transition, after all, its aim is to augment human skills, and help free them up to do higher value work, not replace.

Imagine what the Autonomous Enterprise could mean for the average BPO employee:

He gets in to work and his emails are already sorted in order of priority with certain miscellaneous emails immediately relegated to the spam folder and some emails answered with a previously registered response. He is able to start the work day fresh, without having to go through a blanket of emails.

A spreadsheet with customers’ details – prioritized based on the last interaction – is highlighted to him, advising him on the next tasks, and recommendations on the approach to take. Instead of manually finding answers to a customer’s query, the BPO employee is able to take a step back, analyze the recommendations shared by the Autonomous Enterprise, answer the customer’s query and follow up with recommendations on next steps. This turns his role from being process oriented to a consultative one.

When a meeting overruns, the Autonomous Enterprise immediately reschedules the next appointment or arranges a quicker ride to ensure the employee gets to the meeting on time. It reminds him of things that he needs to look into, such as peer appraisals and team bonding sessions, pulls out a list of articles on social and traditional media that he might find interesting to mention to the customer and automatically scans the corporate IT system and downloads the latest security patches available.

It means less time on manual tasks that most employees are not interested in, less chance for human error as a result of tiring labor-intensive work and more time for enrichment and collaboration, instead of being concerned on the nuts and bolts of operations. It also means a change of job scope, and an opportunity to upgrade oneself to the next level of the job.

Oracle is the pioneer of Autonomous technologies for the Enterprise. We have introduced capabilities into our Cloud Platform Services that lower operational cost, reduce the risk of human error and accelerate innovation, and get predictive insights. For example, the recently launched Oracle Autonomous Database does not require human intervention for mundane tasks, such as patching, turning and protecting the data from security vulnerabilities.

We are only at the start of the Autonomous Revolution. To capture the full benefits jump on board early.  Start with deployment for some non-mission critical workloads and see how you can rapidly reskilling workers to benefit from it. Policymakers also need to collaborate with the business community to help the employers and employees of tomorrow while they are in transition, enabling them to boost productivity and stay relevant.


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