Skip to content

AI and autonomous everything

AI generated image input prompt make me an image that shows ai and autonomous systems

I spoke at the Front End of Innovation (FEI) Conference in Boston the week of 10 June about AI, innovation and the future. This post is part of a distillation of my thoughts.

The future direction of Artificial Intelligence is not just AI in and of itself. It is as part of another whole thing – autonomous systems. Now many of you may not know this about me, but I have been in the business of automating people out of jobs for a very long time (otherwise known as Information Technology 🤣). I can smell when an innovation is going to take out a lot of jobs. And AI has the smell of an innovation that will have far reaching consequences on society and our relationship to work. As I mentioned in my previous article, AI Changes Everything, AI will have far reaching long term impacts on every facet of life.

When most folks think about autonomous systems they think of things like self-driving cars. But self-driving systems that support a plethora of business services are coming our way. As someone who used to manage a call centre, I can tell you that the workers there often do not stick to the script for calls (in spite of a multitude of punitive and controlling techniques that are applied by management) and folks, being human, call in sick. Businesses will leap on this opportunity to get rid of workers who are seen as unreliable and around whom it is difficult to plan. Gen AI driven autonomous systems are going to replace office workers in droves. Think of it as Ask Jeeves from the 1990s on steroids.

Ask Jeeves from 1999. In the age of AI things are going to be different.

Generative AI has had the fastest adoption curve of any technology that I have ever seen. I am part of a global Chief Data Officers (CDOs)  virtual group, this group includes most of the big global brands you have ever heard of from the US, Europe, UK, Asia and Oceania. We met late in 2023 and everyone was saying they were not sure what Gen AI is or what to do with it. Fast forward to February 2024 and most CDOs in the group had at least one Gen AI app in production or not far off production. Since this group includes a large number of banks and finance companies this is an astonishingly fast adoption curve.

AI and autonomous systems

Let me be very clear: the future of AI is AI driven autonomous systems. If your job is about creating repeatable standard inputs then your job is vulnerable to replacement by autonomous AI driven RPA solutions.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is not a new thing, I worked on implementation of the first generation of this technology (then called Business Process Automation earlier this century). Nowadays RPA is part of the low code apps world. But as soon as businesses start to join up AI, especially Generative AI, with RPA they will be able to automate business processes very easily and quickly. If you look under the cover of some new products such as the new Microsoft Recall you will soon see that it is about capturing the standard input of workers so as to better enable process automation.

Gen AI is the missing piece of the puzzle that will enable the automation of all repetitive tasks. It will enable the system to capture verbal, text, and video inputs from worker and customers to drive the process automation, it will avoid the endless and ineffective decision trees that used to be required to provide an automated customer process. Gen AI will become the new front end for all of these kinds of systems. It is the missing piece because it offers the flexibility of language, since they are Large Language Models (LLMs) and it can sit flexibly at the front end of the process ready to take additional inputs in natural language. There are already a plethora of outbound sales chatbots out there that you can just customise and launch.

Some things we need to start thinking about

Since we are moving very rapidly from this early stage of AI into the age of autonomous systems – AI + Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – there are a number of core questions we need to start thinking about.

  1. What degree of agency or empowerment do we give autonomous systems?
  2. When and how should we include humans into the process?
  3. How do we think about the notion of autonomy?
  4. How do we build for autonomy?
  5. How can we ensure that the autonomous process is fair and equitable?
  6. How best can interfaces with other technologies, systems and humans be done best in this context?
  7. Will these systems be safe and secure? How can we assure people of this?
  8. What are the metrics by which we might measure the performance and success of these systems?

Stay tuned for my next instalment on innovation and the age of AI.

2 thoughts on “AI and autonomous everything”

  1. While I’m both excited and horrified by AI, I’m astounded at the IQ drain it has caused amongst product creators. They want to insert AI into everything, and it’s just not ready. The most egregious I’ve seen is an air-conditioner that uses AI to produce recipes from photos of the contents of your fridge. The recipes are predictably ridiculous, one requiring 500lbs of cherries.

  2. During negotiations, this expert mediates among yourself and the potential buyer’s representative. They might guide you trustworthy experts, be they they are in property inspection or money advisory. After agreements are agreed, this particular professional will then arrange a home evaluation and deliberate with you possible adjustments, deciding who exactly bears the economic responsibility, whether you or the interested party.

Comments are closed.