Office workers more than ready to welcome their AI overlords: Cisco

AI office
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Not only are employees worldwide ready to work alongside AI-powered virtual teammates, a virtual assistant might actually make them happier.

That’s according to a new survey conducted by Cisco Systems, which asked white-collar workers in ten countries – Australia, India, China, the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Brazil and Mexico – how they feel about advanced technologies in the workplace.

Among the results, respondents indicated they are OK with machines being part of the team. Six in 10 people said they want AI to do drudge work such as scheduling meetings and taking notes (side note: 94% said they dread meetings, and 45% said they spend half their day in them). Even the 39% of people who said they don’t trust AI indicated they would still gladly hand over their least favorite tasks to AI.

More than half said they have a human assistant at work – 82% of them said they would be more productive if they also had a virtual assistant. When asked how satisfied they were at work, half the people with human assistants said they were very satisfied. Only 32% of those with no human assistants said they were very satisfied. This suggests that giving workers virtual assistants could boost job satisfaction and even happiness, Cisco says.

The survey described a scenario in which a bot would attend a meeting, discern the topics discussed, and offer its analysis. Nine in 10 people expressed interest in or excitement about the idea. Very few said they were “terrified” or not interested.

The survey also asked how respondents would feel if “the next time you walk into your office, your computer recognizes you, knows that you have a call starting soon, asks you: ‘Would you like me to join you to your call now?’ and then takes the action (assuming you say yes).” Fewer than 1 in 10 described it as “creepy” or “disturbing.” The rest chose terms such as “productive,” “cool,” “smart,” “savvy,” or “awesome.”

Eight in 10 people said they want bots to take an active role in conference calls by learning to tell the difference between a barking dog and the presenter and then removing noise. And 62% of workers expect talking to virtual assistants will eventually fully replace typing; three in 10 expect we’ll toss the keyboards in the next five years.

Other findings from the survey:

The future is bright. Most people think that technology advances will lead to more jobs, not mass unemployment. Plus they think that machines will free us from boring tasks and give us more time to focus on the bigger picture.

The future is especially bright if you’re a Star Trek/Star Wars fan: Star Trek and Star Wars fans are more excited about advanced technologies than nonfans; 78% of fans said they are “super excited” about the possibility AI could help them perform better at work, compared with 68% of nonfans.

Data privacy matters. Despite the excitement, people have concerns – 65% of survey respondents said security was a key concern for them. People who said they would not use Google Assistant or Alexa at work (42%) cited data privacy and security concerns as the top two reasons.

Cisco said it conducted the survey on the heels of its recent announcement of Cisco Spark Assistant, an enterprise-ready voice assistant for meetings.

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