“Artificial intelligence is often associated with robots, but it’s not just about producing it anymore”

Last November, the State and INRIA (National Institute for Research in Digital Sciences and Technologies) formalized the creation of the LaborIA research program, intended to measure the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on employment. and working conditions.

Before launching a number of experiments on this theme from the second half of 2022, the publication of a barometer of the deployment of AI in the business world is expected by the end of this month of April. .

In Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, the digital technology competitiveness cluster Minalogic already animates an ecosystem of more than 450 members, more than 300 companies offering AI solutions. At the same time, the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Region claims a leading position in the embedded artificial intelligence sector.

In this context, the conference organized by ESDES Lyon Business School and La Tribune wanted to shed light on the challenges and the impact of artificial intelligence on employment and the organization of the companies of tomorrow. The opportunity to recall that artificial intelligence (AI) brings together a set of theories and techniques allowing machines to simulate human intelligence:

“It’s a human-driven system that feeds it information to allow the machine to reason. The concept is not new, it originated in the United States in the 1950s », specifies Alexandra Ruez, Business Transformation Services Leader within IBM Consulting, speaker during this conference.

“AI must be seen for what it is, that is to say a complement to human intelligence and not a substitute for it, to perform beyond human skills », specifies Sarah Clifft, teacher-researcher at theESDESDoctor in Business Administration, also present.

However, integrating artificial intelligence solutions into the company raises questions related to ethics and respect for privacy:

“We are faced with a problem of societal acceptance similar to all those that technical and then technological progress has generated in the past. Like the computer or the Internet, to name only the most recent”observes Sarah Clifft.

From the assistant to a means of making production more reliable

Within the company, artificial intelligence also provides new digital solutions, capable of responding to industrial or functional issues (human resources, supply chain, etc.). Thus Watson, the AI ​​platform developed by IBM, is able to answer questions formulated in natural language. Enough to allow the establishment of chatbotsthese virtual assistants who offer to guide the user by answering written questions.

It can also be a customer browsing an online sales website like a bank advisor looking, on a company’s internal software, the rmost relevant response to the request fora customer.

“Artificial intelligence is also this GPS application present on your smartphone which offers you the shortest way to your destination, and more generally all the virtual solutions facilitating your daily life such as your search engine… For companies involved in services, AI is an assistant responding to a customer or employee problem. For industry, it is also a way to make a production process more reliable “, Explain Sarah Clifft.

“AI is able to quickly understand a question, analyze the situation, come up with a first understanding and formulate proposals. In the medical sector, it is already an aid providing recommendations to doctors, treating different cases of cancer “, remember Alexandra Ruezfrom IBM.

“Optimizing and understanding customer demand is just as important”

This new support capacity acquired by the machine can however be frightening: France is also one of the countries most reluctant to face this development.

“On the industry side, AI is often associated with robots, automating tasks to produce more. But producing more is not necessarily necessary. Optimizing and understanding customer demand is just as important. And AI can support humans in this process,” explains researcher Sarah Clifft.

“The whole challenge, for us who offer AI solutions, is that the company can transform itself while allowing its teams to retain value and expertise. Supporting customers, training them in these new practices is one of our areas of work. », Analyzes Alexandra Ruez (IBM).

Because by multiplying the possibilities, AI can in particular allow employees to disengage from redundant tasks or tasks with low added value, to develop other skills to put at the service of the company.

I remember a sales team from an SME, where five people said they were overwhelmed. After analyzing their daily life, it turned out that the group performed 963 tasks during the day. Which is way too much. AI can help the company optimize the working time of its employees thanks to tools that save time and improve efficiency “, explains the researcher Sarah Clifft.

In the case of this sales team, it may be automated administrative tasks such as pointing invoices, sending e-mails or reminders from a database… This will drastically reduce the time needed to accomplish these tasks.

The need to feed AI with the “reflection of our society”

If AI is not intended to replace the company’s workforce, nor to dehumanize work, the added value that companies can derive from an organization integrating artificial intelligence is still difficult for managers to grasp. Studies are underway to fill this gap and make it easier for decision-makers to understand the advantages of AI.

However, it also seems necessary to be vigilant about the foundations of AI, namely the construction of reasoning, which will lead the digital tool to offer a solution to the user. ” AI has very powerful analytical capabilities. But it is also driven by man. To avoid bias, nourishing it with the reflection of our society is essential (cultural plurality, varied ages and sexes, etc.) “Explains Alexandra Ruez.

In a society that now lives to the rhythm of immediacy, Generation Z in particular is less patient. These young people born between 1997 and 2010, who have always experienced digital technology, are the future employees of companies.

Among all the actors of this conference, there is now a consensus on the need to integrate inclusion and diversity, strong values ​​carried by this generation Z, but also their new consumption habits in the processes of apprehension of the artificial intelligence.

A necessity to, again, avoid any bias in the reasoning of the AI. Beyond the potentially altered reasoning in the event of insufficient training or based on an overly restrictive environment, there is also the question of the nationality of the suppliers and therefore, the need to retain all sovereignty over this tool, in order not to suffer the influence of other nations. A question particularly on the agenda, given the international context, brought about by the Russian invasion in Ukraine.