Patrick Thibodeau, ComputerWorld
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The lack of skilled IT workers is hurting the deployment of emerging technology, according to a new survey from Gartner. In areas from cloud to cybersecurity, this crisis is expected to last for years to come.
IPsoft's artificial intelligence platform. It has an ability to
understand things in context and engage with the listener. Most
importantly, Amelia is real enough to take your job.
The system learns by
observing interactions between a user and service agents. At one media
client, IPsoft claims, Amelia takes 64% of its calls, and has reduced
"knowledge worker" staffing from 76 to 32.
The 2.0 version of
Amelia was introduced at Gartner's Symposium IT/xpo, and among those
watching the presentation was Mike Strenge, an infrastructure and
operations manager at a financial services firm he didn't want
Here's a sample of Amelia 2.0.
"I am blown away,"
said Strenge, following the demonstration. He's not convinced Amelia has
emotional responses, "but I think we're getting there. It's a new
technology that's going to advance, advance and advance," he said.
vendors, such as IPsoft, concentrate on automating sophisticated
non-routine occupations, which can include financial analysts, insurance
underwriters, tax preparers, managers, programmers and other
This next wave of
automation may be as consequential as the impact of automation was on
routine work. In 1991, routine employment, meaning repetitive,
rule-based tasks both manual and cognitive, such as working in a
factory, made up 58% of the U.S. workforce, but by 2011 had declined to
non-routine cognitive employment increased from 29% of the workforce in
1991 to 39% in 2011, according to Gartner analyst Ken McGee, in a
"Where are all the people who used to work in factories?" asked McGee, or the word-processing typing pool?
Next on the list of
automation opportunities is the growing area of non-routine cognitive
work. "That's why smart machines are the hot topic right now," he said.
It's also why Gartner
believes robotic bosses or managers are on the way, and why 20% of all
business content will soon be generated by machines.
Vendors argue that
automation will create better jobs that require more skills. The
unanswered question is whether increasingly sophisticated automation
will leave the economy with fewer jobs.
"Wherever a human is
servicing on the basis of standard operating procedure, cognitive agents
are doing it, and can do it better," said Chetan Dube, the president
and CEO of IPsoft, and a former math professor at New York University,
in an interview.
Dube won't assign an
IQ to Amelia because "there is a component of IQ which is creative
thinking. She would not do well on that." But for the things she has
learned, "she will execute flawlessly," he said.
coming up with newer things that you haven't come up with before, Dube
said. But he believes the science "is on the boundaries" of reasoning.
Siri is in a
different league. It is a virtual personal assistant that doesn't do
mortgage processing, loan origination or insurance underwriting -- tasks
that Amelia can accomplish. "Siri does the administrative task that a
secretary would do," Dube said.
Dube said machines
will quickly take over a large section of jobs, certainly all mundane
chores, and people will have to retool themselves for jobs that require
more creative thinking. "That is the zone where man must move to," he
Amelia, whose image
is based on a University of Southern California student, also provides a
preview into how these machines may evolve to become human companions.
In the next decade,
Dube said, you will pass somebody in a corridor and won't be able to
tell if it is a woman or android. These machines "will take care of all
the ordinary chores, and they will respond with complete empathy to
you," he said.