How bots and AI are transforming the workplace [Podcast]

Published · 3 min read

I recently had the opportunity to interview Kriti Sharma for the Sage Advice podcast about how AI is changing the workplace. Kriti is the VP of Artificial Intelligence at Sage and resides in London, England. She has numerous accolades; she was named in Forbes magazine’s “30 under 30” list in tech, 2017; she is the inventor of hellopegg.io, the world’s first accounting chatbot; and is the Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Google Grace Hopper Scholar, and the Government of India’s Young Leader in Science. She is dedicated to the ethics of AI and its impact on the society.

You can listen here or read an edited version of the interview below.

What does the VP of Artificial Intelligence at Sage do?

My role is focused on destructing our industry and making sure that no one spends their time doing expense reports and invoice filing and chasing payments. It’s pretty much about looking at our industry across accounting, payments, payroll, banking, and turning it upside down using AI and building robots that do not take over the world.

I believe in the power of AI. In reality, I believe this technology is very powerful and that it’s going to have a huge impact in the way we live our daily lives for the better. And it’s very important also to identify the challenges and risks that AI poses at the same time. It’s like dynamite, it has a huge amount of potential to make our lives easier, similar to the way the smartphone and personal computing have impacted our lives. But at the same time, there are some challenges and it needs to be handled in the right way. I’m also very passionate about helping small businesses, startups embrace the power of AI, so they don’t have to do it themselves.

How do you think AI is changing the workplace? 

I believe the future is going to be a lot more harmonious and less scary than what we hear in the media today.

With every industrial revolution, new changes happen. Personal computing, mobile phones, websites, and even if you look at small businesses in the last decade, we all learned to embrace online, digital, web era, and now it’s time to be ready for AI. And it’s not just in the early stages anymore when it could hardly understand what you were saying, but the technology has advanced a lot more. And it’s going to continue to do that. In the next few years, we will see a lot more value coming out of AI.

In terms of work, just the way we have colleagues at work who are humans, in the future it could be humans and robots, or robots and a lot of automation that comes with it, we could focus on solving problems that are worthy of human attention and time.

Do you think we’ll just learn to work better with robots?

We’re going to learn how to better at interact with this technology and using it to our own benefit, but having said that, there is a chance of AI being deployed in wrong ways. The reason why it’s much more of a potential threat than other technologies is mainly that it learns on its own, it doesn’t always need human supervision. And that means if you are designing AI correctly, then it will learn the right things, but if you don’t teach AI the difference between good behavior and bad behavior, and only optimize it to achieve a goal, then you might end up in a difficult situation. Focusing on the ethics of AI, the design principles behind it is very important and that brings me to my point around roles and opportunities.

Just like with any new technology, there are new opportunities being created and AI is not very different. There are obviously a lot of high tech roles, but also, I believe AI is more of a human problem than a scientific or a tech problem. The technology is there and it’s only going to get better and we’re fine, but it’s more about designing the right human interactions and problem-solving abilities.

We need a lot more new opportunities, new roles, new people, new blood coming into the industry who will focus on designing AI.

To give you an example, in my team, I have an AI conversation designer, a personality trainer, so this person works on creating the personality of AI, which is a human challenge, it’s not something that can be automated right now. So, new roles and opportunities will be created.

Want to learn more about how AI is changing the workplace? Listen to the Sage Advice podcast here.

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