Will Chatbots and Automation Replace Humans in the Workplace?

white robot

The progress we’re making with technology has been nothing short of impressive. While many technological advancements are helping mankind in various fields, there’s a growing concern that these upgrades may eliminate the need for human involvement.

We’ve made so much headway in the field of artificial intelligence and automation that many think they pose a threat to the human workforce. With pop culture portraying AI as an antagonising entity in the form of murderous robots and scheming self-aware computer programs, it just fans the flames of fear. As far-fetched as this may seem, the fear is warranted, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

photo of a 3D model of the Terminator robot
Fortunately, modern applications of AI like chatbots and automation are way less sinister than Skynet’s Terminator robots.

Chatbots: Where did they come from?

Current commercial applications of artificial intelligence are in the form of chatbots. They may not be life-threatening, but pessimists think they do pose a threat to the human labour force. These chatbots are commonly the AI-driven automated responses we get when we engage them on chat conversations online.

Perhaps they all blame it to Alan Turing when he came up with the Turing Test back in 1950. This was actually when the concept of artificial intelligence and robots came into being.

With the Turing Test paving the way, the first chatbot was created in the form of Eliza in an MIT laboratory back in 1966. It simulated human conversations by matching user prompts to scripted responses. Soon after, many other known chatbots followed such as Jabbarwacky in the late 80s, ALICE in the mid-90s, and virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa are now being used. But perhaps, the most widely used chatbot is the one featured on Facebook Messenger.

Will chatbots replace humans in the workplace?

Chatbots have proven to be useful in many aspects across different industries. They’re widely used in customer service and IT outsourcing support, where they engage customers and provide immediate solutions to their concerns. This fast-tracks the process and will only need human intervention when tackling more complex issues.

Virtual assistants help with basic tasks such as asking information from the internet, which could be done by Google Assistant and Siri. For more complex jobs like switching the lights on and off, and controlling the temperature of a smart home, Alexa can do all these for you.

These examples show that chatbots are not about to replace humans, but instead help us make our jobs a whole lot easier by filling in the gaps where we may have deficiencies. To put it simply, they are here to augment our capabilities.

Here are some scenarios where chatbots augment instead of replace humans in the workplace:

1. When humans are asleep, chatbots can fill in for therapists in case someone needs immediate mental health care.

Humans, as biological beings, need rest. And with mental illness a constant threat to anyone suffering from it, therapists should be available 24/7. However, this is not usually the case. And with the absence of quality healthcare to many countries across the globe, this created a need for a chatbot to help those suffering from depression.

Through cognitive behavioural therapy or C.B.T., former computer programmer Alison Darcy worked with a team of psychologists and an AI expert to create Woebot, a text-chatbot therapist that helps people suffering from depression by coaxing them to describe their moods more clearly. This may help save lives when therapists could not be reached.

Chatbots are also used in preventing suicides. Australian non-profit organisation Lifeline launched a Twitter chatbot to help the friends and family of those at risk to easily begin a conversation about suicide. And since more young people are in danger, the integration of a chatbot on social media may prove to be a lifesaver.

2. Triage chatbots as a more accurate way for patients to diagnose their symptoms vs Google search

It seems that chatbots are perceived to be useful in the healthcare industry as they play a crucial role in helping people diagnose their symptoms better than Google search.

Triage chatbots are presented as better alternatives to search engines so patients would know the appropriate steps to take once they’ve answered a set of questions based on their symptoms. This would help them know whether to rush to the ER, have themselves checked up at the nearest clinic or go to the urgent care centre.

3. Banking chatbots help customers with transactions and finance management

Handling your finances are now more accurate thanks to Kasisto’s KAI, a banking chatbot and virtual assistant that functions as a bank’s messaging, mobile and web platforms. The tool is built using industry-specific knowledge, which aims to help customers not only with their payments and transactions but also with account insights and personal finance management.

KAI uses natural language processing, AI reasoning, and speech recognition technology to deliver intelligent, human-like conversations through text and voice. It can also extract meaning and intent through its engagement with customers to provide the service they need.

Conclusion

By the looks of it, chatbots are here to stay. It’s an invaluable tool in helping streamline any process by automating responses, therefore, speeding operations to reach a definitive solution. However, this doesn’t mean they are going to replace humans; they merely function to augment our skills since they work on a limited capacity.

Pretty soon, chatbots will be integrated into the workplace to elevate both employee and customer experience by providing seamless service through more precise solutions, and boosting employee skills by helping them focus on more complex tasks.

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James Patterson
James Patterson

James Patterson, Head of Business Development, Global Corporate Clients joined transcosmos in 2007. He oversees business development and sales and marketing initiatives throughout the EMEA and APAC regions for transcosmos IT and Customer Support Services, managing a team of sales professionals and consultants in these territories. James fully understands and supports the requirements and challenges of complex IT Support and Customer Service environments, having guided an array of large organizations through the consultative process of developing complex solutions to fit the customer’s needs. Previous to transcosmos, James was a regional Sales Manager in the Health and Leisure Industry winning many awards for exceeding sales targets and being innovative.

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