pepper, the robot
A survey of over 4,000 office workers revealed few were concerned about the imminent robot invasion PHOTO: Alex Knight

Time will tell how many jobs technologies like artificial intelligence will or will not kill. But in the meantime, workers don't seem all that concerned.

In fact, most are looking forward to sharing office space and workloads with "robots." Some even envision AI as a muse that inspires their creativity.

These are just a few of the conclusions reached by Adobe Think Tank researchers who studied survey responses from more than 4,000 office workers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Bring On the Robots

The resulting report, "The Future of Work: More Than a Machine," surfaced a number of interesting observations, observations not everyone agrees with — more on that later.

According to the survey, most office workers would delight in having an “intelligent personal assistant,” that does things like remind them about meetings and appointments, research work topics, find documents, search documents for in for information, provide creative suggestions or inspiring ideas for content, provide feedback for tone in e-mails and documents, and even provide networking suggestions.

And while a majority (87 percent) of survey respondents said they expected their jobs to change in the next five years, they also seemed certain they will not be replaced by “machine.” 

Instead, they indicated that their job requires "abilities and attributes that only humans possess" and that, in their particular role, "customers prefer to interact with people over machines."

Don't View AI Through Rose Colored Glasses

It might be behoove the survey respondents, and others, to consider what tech leaders like Diane Greene, senior vice president for Google's cloud businesses, told a group of female data scientists gathered at Women in Data Science event at Stanford University earlier this year.

“(There’s) no question that machine learning (a branch of AI) will eliminate some jobs. Machines are already better than humans (at some things),” she said.

Greene gave image and speech recognition and performing tasks such as finding signs of disease, such as retinopathy, from images as examples. She asserted machines already do this “more accurately than humans.”

Constellation Research analyst Holger Mueller told CMSWire some data scientists might even lose their jobs to AI.

“Data scientists are quickly becoming obsolete as self-learning neural networks can determine business outcomes better and more consistently than the average professional on an average day. The very good human on a very good day may never be caught .... But the rest, yes. Software never sleeps, always works and doesn't have bad days," he said.

Unprepared for the Technology-Rich Future 

All of that being said, less than one-third of the office workers who responded to the survey said they felt equipped to succeed in a "technology-rich" future, and that local and state governments weren't doing much to prepare them. (The survey didn't ask if they were familiar with LinkedIn Learning, Salesforce Trailhead , MapR Academy Big Data Training and such, or if they had actually reached out to their local city and community colleges where tuition is often inexpensive, or even free. Maybe their future intelligent personal assistants can do some looking around.)

The survey did offer an interesting non-AI finding as well. Workers reported they care more about "state of the art of technology for my workstation" than "access to food and beverages," "lounge and relaxation areas" and similar perks companies serve up in the name of "employee engagement."

Adobe infographic on future of work
PHOTO: Adobe