Covid-19 and The Future Of AI: The Case For Businesses To Be Early Adopters

Covid-19 and The Future Of AI
It might not have been on top of anyone's mind at the beginning of the pandemic, but a few positive things have happened since Covid-19 disrupted our world. We've seen technology and human ingenuity step up to the challenge of meeting our needs in these uncertain times.

Many people have been able to hold down their jobs through remote working arrangements. The same technology that enables the virtual workplace can also be used in online learning platforms. In general, we're better off having the means to stay in touch through social media and video calls, even if they're no real substitute for in-person conversations.

These successful adaptations in everyday living have made business leaders wonder whether a similar AI revolution could be accelerated due to the pandemic. Does our increased need for health and safety bring us closer to a future where machines can take over or help fulfill most tasks?

Overcoming Rsistance To change

Major changes in the status quo are always met with a certain reluctance. This is natural, even beneficial, as change carries with it an element of risk.

We've seen this in recent years with remote work. Many businesses were hesitant to allow full-time remote work, even if all worker functions could be done at home. They feared that productivity or performance standards would slip once employees were no longer under tight supervision.

Going further back, similar concerns arose over social media or even the use of the internet itself. New technology increases complexity, which drives uncertainty and stress. Our gut reaction is to be afraid of what we don't understand.

An overpowering concern like the pandemic can be exactly what we need to overcome that hesitation. We've seen it happen with remote work. But not all jobs are compatible with such arrangements. Concern over Covid-19 can be the extra push AI needs in this sector.

Collaborative robots can reduce the need for physical involvement in many tasks. Human employees would only have to oversee their operation, minimizing contact and the risk of infection. The same principle applies to using AI in contactless delivery or transport services, both of which are now being extensively used from supplying medical needs to fulfilling online shopping orders.

The Readiness Factor

The pandemic certainly provides an urgent and ever-present stimulus. It can convince many businesses that using AI isn't just beneficial but might be the only way to survive in an uncertain future.

Yet previous studies have shown that there are several obstacles to the successful adoption of AI among businesses. Some industries find that AI-based solutions are natural, while others struggle to find a useful business case. And though everybody stands to benefit from better data analytics, many would question the return on investment when they feel like doing things in Excel satisfies that need.

Leaders in the C-suite may be well-aware of AI's potential, but it doesn't help that they generally lack skill or familiarity with the technology itself. Those skill deficits often extend throughout an organization. AI is only a tool, and its effectiveness will vary greatly depending on the application.

Most companies will find that narrowing down their focus and starting small will be the best approach. This plays to the strengths of AI while putting human employees in the best position to leverage their own strengths of creativity and imagination. It's probably no coincidence that research by Deloitte and the IFTF emphasizes the need for such inherently human skills to be ready for the future of the industry.

Adopt Early Instead Of Pioneering

The process of finding a suitable application for AI in most businesses can take time. To a great extent, it will involve trial and error.

In the perfume industry, for instance, machine learning has encountered a steep curve. In healthcare, challenges arise when getting disparate systems to exchange information securely. This stands in stark contrast to the seamless implementation and clear benefits of AI in major tech companies.

As it has done in other areas for different forms of technology, the pandemic will likely accelerate AI adoption in business. But those effects will be unevenly distributed.

Businesses with larger resources to draw upon and inherent ability to harness machine learning will benefit the most. And the gains reaped from using AI can further widen the gap between them and the competition.

A company's best bet in this scenario would be working on the element of readiness. Work on the human skills side of the equation, and even if you aren't pioneering change, you can be among the early adopters and achieve success that way.
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