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Fears of AI overtaking BPO jobs overstated


By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

San Francisco — AI, now a buzzword in the IT world for artificial intelligence, is happening and changing the nature of jobs with machines learning tasks performed by humans because they are more efficient and accurate. While industry leaders conclude that automation is real and replacing human tasks, the same experts were the first to contradict saying such fears have been overstated.

Skeptics in the Philippines IT-business process management (IT-BPM) industry have already judged this sector a sunset because AI is going to displace most of the tasks in the voice sector. Already,  the IT-BPM Roadmap 2022 targets nearly $40 billion in revenues and 1.8 million more jobs by 2022. The industry’s Roadmap has considered impacts of new technology, including AI.

Oracle, a global IT giant, has just launched the record-breaking Oracle Autonomous Database, the industry’s first in fully automated suite of cloud platform that takes away human intervention.

Autonomous automation 

At Oracle OpenWorld 2017, Oracle Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Larry Ellison announced Oracle’s transformation into a total cloud-based solution with fully automated autonomous database complete with IT security and management with new machine learning capabilities.

Oracle OpenWorld, the industry’s most important business and technology conference for the past 20 years, hosts tens of thousands of in-person attendees as well as millions online. Dedicated to helping businesses leverage Cloud for their innovation and growth, the conference delivers deep insight into industry trends and breakthroughs driven by technology.

“The Autonomous Database and our automated security system, is based on a new technology called machine learning. Machine learning is the most important new technology to show up for a long time. It looks at all of these logons with all the IP addresses and URLs, distinguishes normal behavior from abnormal, risky behavior,” said Ellison exciting the crowd.

According to Ellison, autonomous automation means the database automatically provisions itself, upgrades itself, patches itself, backs itself up, and tunes itself while running. And because there is no human intervention, there is no human error.

Oracle President for Product Development Thomas Kurian said that Oracle now transitions its leading-edge software as a service.

“The vision for platform-as-a-service was to eliminate the next barrier to technology adoption by our customers. And that was to eliminate all the mundane, manual labor that human beings needed to do in order to use Oracle technology,” said Kurian.

“Our vision for the human interface for applications is to become seamless for humans. No longer is it just web and mobile screens, but you could speak to the application. You can interact with it with messaging. You can take pictures and we can identify images, compare them with other things, and automate transactions.”

The Oracle vision for its autonomous database is inclusive, taking into consideration all the developing countries challenges and potential. It was built to ensure that the only thing needed to run an operation is an Internet and a phone.

This enables customers to preserve existing investments and increase productivity, while eliminating costly learning curves and dramatically reducing integration costs.

The Oracle Application Development Platform highlights a new intelligent chatbot platform. It offers intuitive UIs and embedded collaboration — amplified with new developments in machine learning, AI and Internet of Things (IoT) and chatbots connectivity — Oracle’s suite of cloud applications help customers better connect critical business functions and accelerate intelligent outcomes.

Oracle Data Cloud, which is the largest data marketplace in the world, features a collection of more than 5 billion global consumer and business IDs and more than 7.5 trillion data points collected monthly.

“We’re doing this to give you, our customers and developers, a canvas on which you can paint your vision and your ambitions and dreams, to use information technology in a new way, in a fundamentally new way, to transform your organization, your companies and the world.”

“We’re introducing amazing technology in the infrastructure layer. So you can get world-class infrastructure delivered to you through a browser.”

Changing nature of job

Evan Goldberg, executive vice president of Oracle and former chairman, founder and CEO of NetSuite before it was acquired by Oracle, said that NetSuite, which is still largely an independent operation, will be big customer of Oracle complete automation solution. NetSuite runs on Oracle platform.

Having said that, Goldberg categorically stated that AI or the complete automation will not displace workers, but just change the nature of jobs. It will not dramatically affect the business process outsourcing industry of the Philippines, which employs 1.3 million and revenue generation of $25 billion.

“We have knowledge workers in the Philippines, they are building software, they are solving difficult customer problems and to some degree there are effects just like any other employee but what AI does is eliminate the most boring manual tasks, and allow us to focus on great value to be delivered to our customers,” he said.

“When factories came about everybody says this (replace humans) is what is going to happen. But as it turned out, humans are very flexible and adaptable and there is always indefinite work to do.”

Definitely, he said, AI will change the nature of the job like the ones who do the screwing of the servers, and the man plugging in the cable will not be doing much of that because NetSuite is doing it right, making that sure that servers are connected.

Instead of worrying how servers are connected together, he said, people will concentrate on how NetSuite can work better in administering for somebody’s cloud services as there are always things people with those skills set can do.

“So the threat if workers being replaced maybe overstated, I am not an economic expert but I do know that these things have been predicted before and haven’t really panned out. There is always displacement when technology changes but at end of day there we still have Filipinos largely at  full employment despite the machines and computers, internet and all that.  At least in the short term, there are displacements for most manual and unpleasant tasks will be replaced,” he said.

In his mind, short term could be in two to three years but stressed, “If you look at history, there are always things people will do.”

That is why everything at Oracle NetSuite is expanding and NetSuite Philippines is no exception. Goldberg cited Oracle CEO Mark Hurd, who announced that Oracle is investing massively in distribution and R&D and customer support worldwide.

“Any transformation will cause some jobs to go away, but new jobs are also created as people see lots of changes,” said Francois Lancon, Oracle senior vice-president for Asia Pacific.

He said that 80 percent of companies are adopting cloud and that means AI adoption as they move towards innovation because that is cheaper and money goes back to bottomline for new customer experience.

“So there are new dramatic job opportunities especially in Asia, which is leading the whole world in growth,” Lancon said.

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