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Washington (AFP) – Are robots coming for your job?

This is an interesting article I noticed on the web – there is a lot of discussion in the IT world of the effects of automation particularly on clerical work processes. This is nothing new. This debate has been going on for years but before we were wondering why despite all the investment in automation was clerical work productivity fairly static. It may be that this is an idea whose time has come at last.

Although technology has long affected the labor force, recent advances in artificial intelligence and robotics are heightening concerns about automation replacing a growing number of occupations, including highly skilled or “knowledge-based” jobs. Just a few examples: self-driving technology may eliminate the need for taxi, Uber and truck drivers, algorithms are playing a growing role in journalism, robots are informing consumers as mall greeters, and medicine is adapting robotic surgery and artificial intelligence to detect cancer and heart conditions.

Of 700 occupations in the United States, 47 percent are at “high risk” from automation, an Oxford University study concluded in 2013 and a McKinsey study released this year offered a similar view, saying “about half” of activities in the world’s workforce “could potentially be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies.” Still, McKinsey researchers offered a caveat, saying that only around five percent of jobs can be “fully automated.”

Another report, by PwC this month, concluded that around a third of jobs in the United States, Germany and Britain could be eliminated by automation by the early 2030s, with the losses concentrated in transportation and storage, manufacturing, and wholesale and retail trade. But experts warn that such studies may fail to grasp the full extent of the risks to the working population. “The studies are underestimating the impact of technology — some 80 to 90 percent of jobs will be eliminated in the next 10 to 15 years,” said Vivek Wadhwa, a tech entrepreneur and faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University in Silicon Valley.

Dire consequences

“Artificial intelligence is moving a lot faster than anyone had expected,” said Wadhwa, who is co-author of a forthcoming book on the topic. “Alexa (Amazon’s home hub) and Google Home are getting amazingly intelligent very fast. Microsoft and Google have demonstrated that AI can understand human speech better than humans can.” Wadhwa calls the driverless car a “metaphor” for the future of labor and a sign of a major shift.

Warnings of dire social consequences from automation have also come from the likes of the physicist Stephen Hawking and tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, among others. Hebrew University of Jerusalem historian Yuval Harari writes in his 2017 book, “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” that technology will lead to “superfluous people” as “intelligent non-conscious algorithms” improve. “As algorithms push humans out of the job market,” he writes, “wealth and power might become concentrated in the hands of the tiny elite that owns the all-powerful algorithms, creating unprecedented social and political inequality.” Harari points to the Oxford study, estimating a high probability of job loss to automation — cashiers (97 percent), paralegals (94 percent), bakers (89 percent) and bartenders (77 percent), for example.

Others disagree.

Boston University economist and researcher James Bessen dismisses alarmist predictions, contending that advances in technology generally lead to more jobs, even if the nature of work changes. His research found that the proliferation of ATM machines did not decrease bank tellers’ employment in recent decades (looks like the author has not been to a bank recently! REM), and that automation of textile mills in the 19th century led to an increase in weaving jobs because it created more demand.

“Robots can replace humans in certain tasks but don’t entirely replace humans,” he said. But he acknowledged that automation “is destroying a lot of low-skill, low wage jobs, and the new jobs being created need higher skills.” Former president Barack Obama’s council of economic advisors also warned last year that most jobs paying less than $20 an hour “would come under pressure from automation.”

‘Tax the robot’

Although the net impact of robots remains unclear, tech leaders and others are already debating how to deal with the potential job displacement. Microsoft founder Bill Gates said last month that he supports a “robot tax,” an idea floated in Europe, including by a socialist presidential candidate in France. But Bessen, a former fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center, said taxing robots could be counterproductive.

“You don’t want to be taxing the machines because they enable people to earn higher wages,” he said. “If you tax machines, you will slow the beneficial side of the process.”

Read original article at: Robots and effects on Jobs

Acquisition signals increasing role of AI in outsourcing | CIO

With its announcement last week that it will purchase enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) and automation vendor Rage Frameworks, Genpact became the first IT and business process service provider to acquire an AI platform.

[ Related: Questions to ask before choosing an automation partner ]

The addition of Rage Frameworks, which has been applying machine learning and language processing to build intelligent automation platforms for financial services, capital markets and supply chains, “will take Genpact deeper into integrating semi and unstructured data and AI, where we see the true marriage of business processes with clever technology and self-developing algorithms,” says Phil Fersht, CEO of outsourcing analyst and consulting firm HfS Research.

On the surface, another acquisition of a niche automation vendor by an IT service provider might seem unremarkable. But industry watchers say this may be the tipping point where focus will shift from back-office automation to integrating and intelligently automating front- and middle-office functions.

“It represents an evolution of the back-office oriented automation acquisitions that many outsourcing providers have made over the past several years,” says David Borowski, director with outsourcing consultancy Pace Harmon.The differentiation is Rage’s focus on artificial intelligence, and the significance is that it should allow Genpact to develop and deploy applications and solutions that can directly integrate Rage’s cognitive, predictive and real-time analytics capabilities.”

[ Related: 11 ways to address RPA and AI in IT outsourcing contracts ]

Genpact first began partnering with Rage Frameworks to harness its AI capabilities. Rage Frameworks’ technologies “are immediately applicable to Genpact’s existing client base,” says Peter Bendor-Samuel, CEO of outsourcing research firm Everest Group. “Leveraging Rage’s AI platform, Genpact hopes to provide real-time insights, simplify automation, and gain competitive advantages. Their theory is that their combined capabilities will help clients drive digital transformation at scale and accelerate clients’ digital journey.”

Labor-arbitrage based IT service providers ceased growing last year, according to Everest Group, with 21 percent of industry growth in IT and business process services with a digital focus. A recent survey of of 132 “best reference” clients of top service providers by Everest Group found that 48 percent were unhappy and 25 percent were very unhappy.” A top reason for their dissatisfaction is providers’ capability of helping them with a digital restructure,” says Bendor-Samuel, adding that this move by Genpact is acknowledgement that the future of IT services will be focused on digital transformation.

[ Related: Outsourcing trends to watch in 2017 ]

“We’ve danced for years trying to prophesize when BPO will truly integrate with IT,” says Fersht. “But we’ve now had reality unveiled: RPA [robot process automation] platforms streamline the back office, while AI brings the middle and front together to create that true digital experience. Moreover with Rage’s development effort over the last two years to build enterprise applications for financial industry processes (wealth management, commercial loan processing and financial statement spreading) is shifting the focus from automation tools and capabilities to providing an end-to-end process leveraging a model driven business transformation platform.”

[ Related: Building a business case for offshore robotic process automation ]

It also enables Genpact to change the old offshore outsourcing narrative from that of shipping jobs overseas to improving processes and delivering new business value, according to Borowski. “For existing customers, it provides the opportunity to reimagine how its existing outsourcing solutions are delivered in areas where pure cost reduction was the previous focus or there was a perceived risk associated with outsourcing,” Borowski says. “It shifts the discussion from ‘can you outsource an activity’ to ‘can you improve a process and result’ using a toolset that happens to be provided by your outsourcing provider.”

Genpact’s purchase is not the beginning of a trend, but rather the next phase of an ongoing attempt by outsourcing providers to embed enabling technology into their offering. “For the past several years, outsourcing providers have been actively pursuing ways to incorporate increasingly transformational levels of automation and intelligence into their solutions,” says Borowski.

To date, the tendency has been to partner with rather than purchase AI and automaton vendors. Automation software providers Blue Prism, AutomationAnywhere and UIPath have aggressively forged partnerships with most of the leading outsourcers, such as Accenture, IBM, EXL and Capgemini,” Fersht says.

“AI vendors IPSoft and Celaton have also been active, while several outsourcers are now working with Watson, including KPMG.” However, Bendor-Samuel argues, “the incumbent service provider industry has no choice but to accelerate their rotation into digital, and the most effect way to accomplish this is through acquisitions.

Article source: http://www.cio.com/article/3184219/outsourcing/acquisition-signals-increasing-role-of-ai-in-outsourcing.html

US addiction to outsourcing might cost it the Robot revolution

The US’s addiction to off-shoring might cost it a seat in the next revolution of manufacturing.

As robots are rushing to take over human jobs, the US is finding that its own manufacturing base is not taking advantage – mostly because it off-shored its manufacturing ages ago.

Roboticist Matt Rendall said that robotic job displacement will reshape global manufacturing and since America, which has outsourced much of its manufacturing and lacks serious investment in industrial robotics, it will be relegated to a third world country.

In the future, it will be the robot makers which will have the key role in determining how automation expands across the globe.

As the CEO of manufacturing robotics company Otto Motors, Rendall is building fleets of warehouse bots that could eventually replace the many fulfilment workers who are hired by companies like Amazon.  He said that the robots were coming.

“After the Great Recession, there was a fundamental change in people’s interest in automation. People started feeling the pain of high-cost labour and there’s an appetite for automation that we haven’t seen before.”

Rendall believes automation will, in the long-term, improve society and help humans live better lives, but there are changes afoot in the global manufacturing scene that could leave American industries in the dust.

“China is tracking to be the No. 1 user in robots used in industrial manufacturing and the country is driving “an overwhelming amount” of growth.

But China is responding to automation by embracing it instead of shying away from it. This is in stark contrast to industrial advances of the previous century, like Ford’s assembly line, that helped transform American industries into the most powerful on the planet.

The risk is of course is that if the US does not do something fast then that crown will leave it being a nuclear powered also ran on the world stage, dreaming of days when it used to be great.


Article source: http://www.techeye.net/uncategorized/us-addiction-to-outsourcing-might-cost-it-the-robot-revolution

Robotic process automation makes nearshore outsourcing more …

The traditional benefits of IT outsourcing to nearshore locations have included geographic proximity, time zone alignment, cultural affinity and shared language. The one area these adjacent providers have not been able to compete with their offshore counterparts on has been price.

[ Related: Building a business case for offshore robotic process automation ]

But that could change as robotic process automation (RPA) takes hold. The automation itself will begin to chip away at the offshore competitive advantage of labor arbitrage. But more importantly, argues Marcos Jimenez, CEO of Softtek North America, it will highlight areas in which nearshore providers excel: proximity, agility, and flexibility. A nearly 20-year veteran of the Mexico-headquartered company, Jimenez has doubled the profitability of Softtek’s U.S. and Canadian business since taking it over in 2011.

CIO.com talked to Jimenez about the potential impact of RPA on the global IT and business process outsourcing market, new demands from customers for outcome-based engagements, the role of digital labor management in the future of IT services, and best practices for RPA success.

Robots threaten $4 billion worth of upcoming Australian outsourcing deals


Paul Smith

Australian outsourcing deals worth up to $4 billion are ripe for disruption in the next three years from a growing move towards robotic process automation and cloud-based options, a leading global consultancy has said.

David Snell the local boss of sourcing advisory firm Alsbridge, which has recently set up operations in Australia and New Zealand, said increasingly intelligent automation software would render thousands of workers on traditional outsourcing deals obsolete in coming years, and advised businesses to reconsider their plans, rather than simply re-signing on the dotted line to renew deals.

Mr Snell said some of the biggest outsourcing agreements coming up for renewal over the next 12 to 18 months include deals at Elders, the Australian Taxation Office, Perpetual, the Department of Defence, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Qantas.

He said more than 120 ANZ enterprises have large outsourcing contracts, worth approximately $2billion, due to expire during the next three years, with an additional 500 smaller contracts taking the pool to around $4 billion.

Article source: http://www.afr.com/technology/enterprise-it/robots-threaten-4-billion-worth-of-upcoming-australian-outsourcing-deals-20161111-gsn89i