AI to disrupt Asia business in all kinds of ways, good and bad: MIT

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Asia’s economies are set to benefit significantly from the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) in terms of competitiveness, but many believe the adoption of AI and robotics will result in substantial job losses in Asia over the next five years – especially in the financial sector.

That’s according to a new report released today by MIT Technology Review, “Asia’s AI agenda”, which found that C-level executives from process- or technology-intensive sectors, such as retailing, ICT and manufacturing, are most positive about AI’s impact on their sector. However, executives from financial services believe that automated processes and machine-based transactions will destroy value in their sector (see Figure 1).

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While most HR directors believe that the adoption of AI and robotics will result in substantial job losses in Asia over the next five years, HR professionals also see opportunity for their own function to expand and oversee the management of both human and machine productivity.

AI’s rise will create a seismic shift in the processes that senior managers use to manage talent, growth, and productivity across nearly every industry sector. Asian businesses stand to leverage AI’s rise faster, thanks to the virtuous cycle created by Asia’s technology investments and the organic growth of big data, said Will Knight, Senior AI Editor at MIT Technology Review.

“The Asian academic scene is advancing quickly – what’s more, entrepreneurs are returning from big companies in the U.S. to create their own domestic ventures,” said Knight.

C-level executives surveyed and AI industry experts interviewed for Asia’s AI agenda are largely aligned in the belief that AI and robotics will impact every industry significantly, positively, and all at once.

Rising investment in process automation in Asian manufacturing tends to focus much of the industry’s attention, given that three Asian countries alone — China, Korea, and Japan — purchased nearly half the world’s total output of articulated robots in 2015. But, importantly, survey respondents largely felt that most other sectors, from retail to logistics, would benefit equally from AI technology. AI industry executives believe that big data’s growth in Asia will allow autonomous and intelligent applications to proliferate across almost all industries in the region, more or less simultaneously.

But according to the report, while decision makers at Asian-based firms are convinced of AI’s benefits, most have not yet committed resources to capitalize on these beliefs (see Figure 2).

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In order to capitalize on today’s AI and automation trends, Asian business leaders will need to adopt an attitude of extreme openness. This should manifest through a willingness to collaborate in data analytics projects and to share best practices and insight resulting from their own process automation efforts.

Moreover, while these technologies may have a powerful impact on an individual firm’s competitiveness, the quest for competitive advantage cannot blind business leaders to the greater benefits of collaboration – in much the same way that competitive AI developers themselves are increasingly pooling resources to accelerate their collective progress.

You can download the full report here.

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