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Putting AI to Work: The Harvard Business Review on Businesses and AI

Forget Ryan Gosling in Blade Runner 2049 or Arnie in The Terminator; the future of AI isn’t Hollywood, it’s accountants. The Harvard Business Review’s AI experts got to the point quickly, with Sage’s VP of AI and Bots Kriti Sharma talking about using machine-learning to reduce the tedium of doing expenses and tax returns. McKinsey’s Peter Breuer added that his first advice to a company unsure of how to incorporate AI into their businesses was to start by automating small areas of decision-making.

Having a bot do their tax returns may be the first step for many organisations to using machine-learning, but what’s important, Breuer said, was that they start now. One of the biggest obstacles with bringing AI into the workplace is that people don’t understand, don’t trust, and don’t see the value in it. Hollywood can take some of the blame for this, but so can the growth of a tech scene which hasn’t prioritised communication and diverse approaches. As AI technology steps in to make mundane work tasks redundant, there will be an increase in the need for roles like “translators” who can communicate between middle management and the programming teams.

“We need AI to solve problems…not pretend to be human” Sharma points out, underlining the point that the “general” AI vision of replicant-style robots won’t do much for most businesses. It’s the less sexy “narrow” AI approaches that work through data sets and crunch analytics which are destined to become as common as email and caffeine in the offices of the near-future. Stop being scared, and start getting your expenses done quicker – the good news about AI is that it’s probably going to be quite boring. 

Margo Howie, Account Manager, Mindshare