The Month in Technology October 2015 - Robotics, AI and Automation

("The Month In Technology", Jersey Evening Post, October 23)

I was invited earlier this month to speak at the very interesting Channel Island Funds Forum event about innovations in technology and its impact on the industry.

Neither of the people who have read my previous articles will be surprised to hear that I focussed on the effects of Cloud, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics on employment in the Channel Islands.

However, whilst researching the talk I was taken aback by the pace of change even over the last year.  A particularly interesting resource was the recent study by Boston Consulting that 25% of jobs in the US will be automated in the next 20 years. Oxford University estimated 35% of jobs will be automated in the UK over the same period.

Obviously waves of automation have happened before, with weavers being replaced by loom operators, but as security trading floors close around the world it is clear that automation is affecting jobs that were once considered safe.

The BBC website has a fascinating presentation of the relative risks of automation by artificial intelligence and robotics for 366 professions.  This is a league table where you don’t want to be near the top, so whilst Telephone salespeople won’t like to see themselves at number 1, publicans and hoteliers will be relieved to find themselves least likely to be automated.  From a selfish perspective, I hope that the role of “IT business analyst, architect and system designer” is indeed 14th safest with at 353 only 1.1% risk of automation !

Legal Secretaries might seem one of the more surprising at 3rd most at risk, but legal firms are already using Robots with Artificial Intelligence to automate repetitive tasks such as processing aspects of real estate transactions. Even with a certain amount of exaggeration and neglecting to account for the requirement for checking and correction, the stated claim that 100 days’ work for paralegals and assistants can be done in seconds is startling.

The next development in the legal industry is robots that can review contracts to ensure that standard clauses are present, and notify where unusual clauses have been inserted.

The inexorable growth of Cloud based accounting platforms such as xero explains the high risk for Finance Account Managers, Bookkeepers and Chartered and Certified Accounts.

Customer service is particularly affected by automation, with robots being introduced by the Bank of Tokyo that will recognise their customers, speak in their language, recognise their moods and learn what they are likely to need help with.

I will look further at AI in financial services subsequently, but in the meantime it’s encouraging to remember that the safest jobs are the most human, those requiring negotiation, collaboration and innovation, which neatly encapsulate what Channel Islands businesses should be doing with IT automating the repetitive tasks.