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82% of business leaders say human/robot hybrid teams will be reality in 5 years

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Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • 82% of business leaders expect humans and machines to work as integrated workforce teams within the next five years. — Dell Technologies, 2018
  • Business leaders are split 50/50 on whether or not they believe automated systems will free up time for employees. — Dell Technologies, 2018

Some 82% of business leaders said they believe human employees and machines will work together on integrated teams within the next five years, according to a recent Dell research report. However, the true value of these teams is up for debate.

Leaders were split down the middle (50/50) on whether or not they felt automated systems would save their employees any noticeable time, according to a press release announcing the report. Keeping in that theme, only 42% said they would have higher job satisfaction if they could dump their tasks on a machine, while 58% disagreed.

The results seem to point to the idea that business leaders see the coming artificial intelligence (AI) revolution as a foregone conclusion—there's no stopping the machines. But the division of leaders in their beliefs about its value is a totally different issue to contend with.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

One of the core arguments made by proponents of AI and automation is that the technology will free up current human employees to focus on higher-level tasks at work, or to explore more creative endeavors. But the divided attitudes in this Dell report seem to show that while some leaders have bought into this idea, others don't believe there will be any noticeable increase in free time.

Another split had to do with beliefs around AI's impact on security. Some 48% of leaders said that dependence on AI would create bigger losses in the event of a cyberattack, while 58% didn't express a concern in this area. In the event the autonomous technology were to fail, 50% said they believe we should have protocols in place for dealing with such a failure.

There's also the issue of machines being used for nefarious purposes. As such, 45% said machines and systems will need to decipher between good and bad commands, while 55% said that wasn't necessary.

"There tends to be two extreme perspectives about the future: the anxiety-driven issue of human obsolescence or the optimistic view that technology will solve our greatest social problems," Dell CMO Jeremy Burton said in the release. "These differing viewpoints could make it difficult for organizations to prepare for a future that's in flux and would certainly hamper leaders' efforts to push through necessary change."

The report also examined business leaders' ideas around their growth as a digital business. A mere 27% said they felt they were leading the way, integrating a digital focus into all their initiatives. But 42% said they didn't know if their business had the digital chops to keep competing over the next 10 years, and 57% said they were struggling to keep up with the fast pace of change.

Despite the fears, many companies were on the path to implementing some serious changes in their tech strategies. Here is what the respondents said they believed they could accomplish within the next five years:

  • Effective cybersecurity defences in place - 94%
  • Deliver product as a service - 90%
  • Complete transition to software-defined business - 89%
  • R&D will drive their organization forward - 85%
  • Deliver hyper-connected customer experience with virtual reality (VR) - 80%
  • Use AI to pre-empt customer demands - 81%

"Although business leaders harbor contrasting views of the future, they share common ground on the need to transform. Based on the many conversations I have with customers, I believe we're reaching a pivotal moment in time," Burton said in the release. "Businesses can either grasp the mantle, transform their IT, workforce and security and play a defining role in the future or be left behind."

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Image: iStockphoto/YakobchukOlena
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