Automation is a frequent buzz word in the business world today. Many business owners, as well as their employees, are wondering at what point does artificial intelligence eclipse human intelligence. But can human workers ever be substantially replaced by intelligent machines?
While technology currently has A.I. systems capable of taking on tasks normally performed by humans, finding a balance between the two is becoming a business imperative. As Covid-19 continues to keep employees away from jobs requiring contact with other humans, it’s clear that machines don’t have that issue.
On the other hand, automating more arduous physical and menial tasks in some industries can improve job productivity, product quality, job satisfaction, and safety for workers.
Striking a balance
It’s a fact that fully autonomous machines can to some degree replace human functions in certain situations. Automated phone answering systems, self-checkout and ordering kiosks at fast food restaurants are examples that have been around a while. However, humans are still needed to solve customer service issues, make sure items are properly paid for, and prepare the food.(They also may be required to reboot the system when it goes down or malfunctions.)
Roles that are ideal for machines include activities that save time and money, provide quicker and more precise decision making, and minimize workplace accidents. For example, a parts distribution machine at a manufacturing plant can make intelligent decisions much faster than the human brain, and with more precision and accuracy. In this case, A.I. machines cut production time and limit mistakes and delays, while also helping to prevent or eliminate accidents and injuries. But ultimately, it’s humans who bring the product together.
Roles better suited to humans
When personalized service is required, it’s hard to rely on automated systems. The use of VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phone service, softphones, video conferencing and virtual meetings, help to improve the human interaction as business can be done anywhere a Wi-Fi connection is available.
The use of human intelligence is still very much an important part of the business puzzle. Machines cannot think or use their intuition to solve issues. An example is with a company’s customer service. While automated systems can be fine for initial contact, nothing beats the ability to speak directly to a human when an issue needs immediate attention. After all, that’s what humans do best: communicate with other humans and solve problems.
5G: the key to automation?
According to the World Economic Forum, the improved bandwidth of 5G networks will also lower latency, which measures how much time it takes for your computer, the internet, and everything in between, to respond to an action. This will allow new automated capabilities – unimaginable in the past – to become possible – everything from drones delivering medicines to self-driving vehicles to synchronized farm machinery.
The human brain is analogous, while machines are digital
What makes human intelligence unique is its ability to draw on emotions like self-awareness, passion, and motivation to accomplish complex cognitive tasks. Though automation drives down costs, improves efficiency, and productivity, there will always be the need for the human brain, and the emotional weight it carries.
Ultimately, freeing people from mundane, repetitive tasks that machines perform better and more efficiently, allows them to focus on more sophisticated creative challenges.
There’s no doubt that automation will affect every industry. It’s critical that business leaders prepare their organizations – and their people – for the changing nature of work.
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