Within the next decade, your performance review could be with robot supervisor, your coffee could be brewed by an autonomous barista and your courier company may have already lost its contract to a firm of drones, according to MYOB Chief Technology Officer Simon Raik-Allen.
MYOB has just released the second report in its ‘Future of Business’ series: ‘Surviving the Singularity’, discussing automation and business intelligence. This could soon be the reality for businesses around Australia as technology reaches the point when machines are capable of independent thought, a concept known as the singularity.
The singularity is predicted by some experts to occur in the not so distant future. Mr. Raik-Allen points out that as leading Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts, scientists and theorists highlight the dangers of uncontrolled technological development, it is important for people to think about how technology may change their future.
This future could be very different for many, and the report highlights some important predictions that – if they come to fruition – will affect retail, business, and particularly employment. Mr. Raik-Allen points out that the speed of change in the online retail sector alone leaves the possibilities limitless.
“As technology progresses, retail stores won’t sell goods – they will sell experiences. Bricks and mortar stores will become showrooms, which emphasize the unique attributes of the product, and allow you to select a product which will be delivered to your home within 24 hours, possibly by drone.”
Other findings include the invention of ‘business deal houses’, where people will book time to meet other companies via hologram, these environments conducive to making deals between humans much more effective.
The job market will also be affected, with the service industry predicted to lose a significant number of jobs to AI, including telemarketers, auditors, bank tellers, travel agents, retail salespersons, technical writers, real estate agents, and word processors.
“While we are probably not all going to be reporting to a robot, the reality is that a lot of jobs that exist today will be replaced by automation, while roles we’ve not yet thought of will open up,” said Mr. Raik-Allen.
“If you are starting a business or you are a student thinking about your career that makes it important to plan now.”
The future of work
With the rise of automation, the world of work is going to change fundamentally over the next two decades, he explains.
“Again, it is likely to be the ‘human factor’ that will make all the difference. While technology provides us with high efficiency and accuracy, some skills are fundamentally difficult to automate. We still have an advantage over robots for the tasks that require judgment, creative thinking and human interaction.”
“With more time on our hands, other business opportunities are likely to flourish, in the arts, culture, sports and caring professions. Whatever the future brings (and I’m hoping for a technological utopia) it really is just around the corner, so businesspeople, entrepreneurs and students should start preparing for it now.”
The winning human factor
“Regardless of how advanced the technology, one thing that is unlikely to change is our desire for human experience,” says Mr. Raik-Allen.
“That’s where people are always going to have the advantage over robots. As the world evolves, in everything from your retail experience to making a business deal, the complex interactions we have with people are likely to become, if anything, more valuable.”
Three things that a small business owner can to do to prepare for the age of AI
- Digitise your business: get online with a business website, and automate as many manual processes as you can.
- Focus on the customer experience that your product or service delivers. In the age of robotics, human contact will very likely become more valuable.
- Broaden your business network. Create relationships and partnerships that will enable you to connect more strongly with people.
Surviving the Singularity: An MYOB Future of Business report is available for download now.
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MYOB (ASX: MYO) is a leading cloud based business management solutions provider. It makes business life easier for approximately 1.2 million businesses across Australia and New Zealand by simplifying accounting, payroll, tax, practice management, CRM, websites, job costing, inventory and more. MYOB provides ongoing support via many client service channels including a network of over 40,000 accountants, bookkeepers and other consultants. It is committed to ongoing innovation, particularly in cloud computing solutions, and in 2015 was awarded the BRW award for the most innovative large company for 500+ employees and placed 2nd in BRW’s Most Innovative Companies Award list across all categories nationally. For more information, visit myob.co.nz or follow @MYOB on Twitter.